Demolition in question

2015-04-30 14:50

A Woodstock building has been demolished without council authorisation, which may lead to legal action.

This follows after vandalism at the Victoria Road building saw it stripped and reduced to an eyesore.

The property appears to form part of an erf earmarked for a multi-storey development, called Woodstock Quarter. But as construction failed to start, residents reported timber and finishing stolen from the site.

The shell of the building was then demolished one weekend, says Upper Woodstock Residents’ Association exco member Nils Hansen.

Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning Johan van der Merwe says it appears the property owner acted on the approval for the demolition obtained from Heritage Western Cape, prior to obtaining approval from the City in terms of the National Building Regulations.

“Thereafter, an application for demolition was submitted to the City’s Planning and Building Development Management Department. The department is handing the matter to the City’s Legal Services Department to consider possible further action,” he says.

Swish property spokesperson Justin Betts says the company was late in submitting the demolition application to the City but felt there was “no choice but to demolish the structures as they were becoming unsafe”.

“Both houses had been vacated and were empty. Thieves were coming in at night (and in broad daylight sometimes) and stripping the building. All of the internal roof beams were stolen and the roof was ready to collapse at any second,” he says.

Most of the damage to the building had already taken place before the property owner was even aware of it, says Betts.

“We visit the property once a month or when one of our tenants request us to see them. The neighbouring tenants assumed that we were busy in the units, so did not query what was going on, so the first time we saw the damages it was almost too late. The costs to rectify the damage to make the property rentable just did not make economic sense,” he says.

Cornwall Street residents have complained about the state of the site after the illegal dumping created a stench (“Contentious site raises ire”, People’s Post, 6 November 2013).

The site stretches from Cornwall Street to Victoria Road, and from Baron Street to Gympie Street. In 2012, plans for the proposed development sparked residents’ outrage after they were approved by the City of Cape Town. They objected to the height of the building.

Woodstock Community Outreach Forum chairperson Shamiel Abbass previously told People’s Post residents agreed to only five storeys, as anything higher will obstruct their view of the mountain.

The application proposes to develop the property into nine storeys consisting of a retail component and a block of flats.

Luigi Tollon, property manager at Swish Properties who owns the site, previously told People’s Post the company has secured their property with a wall and on-site security.

Van der Merwe says the City has not received any recent complaints and no applications have been submitted for this site.

Richard Bosman, of the City’s safety and security directorate, says the City’s Problem Building Unit has not received any complaints about the property.

Uncared for buildings are a massive problem in Woodstock, says Hansen. “They allow criminals to get away with doing criminal activities without any consequences. The landlords allow the building to fall into disrepair to get away with legalities around heritage and building regulations.”

Eyesores such as the site are chasing away would-be developers, Hansen believes. “Because of all these decaying buildings, Woodstock struggles to advance fully and local businesses and residents have to deal with the negative aspects of dealing with developers and cash-strapped council departments,” he says.

And, Hansen maintains, the entire community suffers from derelict sites. “Often what the owners are actually doing is not technically unlawful but it does affect everyone negatively. Harsher punishment is needed for developers trying to get away without being thoughtful and considerate to the locals.”

The Woodstock Quarter scheme, approved by the City on 18 April 2013, implied that those houses would have had to be demolished to make way for the new development, says Betts. “So we felt that demolition of the structures would have been a formality with the City. The demolition application is at City at the moment,” he says.

Swish is in talks with a potential investor, which if successful, will allow them to submit building plans to council for approval, according to Betts

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