The issue of problem buildings in Woodstock and Salt River is on the priority list of the local council. This was revealed at a public engagement meeting held on Monday 19 March at Woodstock Town Hall. Officials said they have realised the risks posed by deteriorating buildings in communities, as they tend to be used for illegal activities in most cases.Ward councillor Dave Bryant said: “These buildings are unsightly, unhealthy and negatively affect our economic growth as crimes taking place within are not just of concern to residents but businessmen as well.”Bryant said they decided to host an engagement with all the affected parties to try and find solutions to the problem, as the number of complaints from residents is on the rise. He appealed to the community to report such buildings.Mayco member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith, explained how the City intends to tackle the problem. He said there are proposed bylaws that will enforce compliance by the property owners. The law posed against the negligent owners would be tightened through the proposition of harsh punishments by the courts. “Currently, taking property owners to court is a waste of time – they walk away with small fines. Magistrates’ courts are too lenient.”Smith said the City is looking at appointing an administration team that will focus on matters involving problem buildings in the City. He said there are currently 13 cases in the High Court, in which they are hoping for warrants of arrest because the owners have failed to comply.Smith said there are different factors that result in such undesirable buildings, including owners who can no longer afford maintenance but still cling to their buildings, heritage buildings belonging to either a private owner or a government department, owners not being entirely open about their situations until their properties lose value, and buildings that were owned by companies that have been deregistered and properties whose owners have passed on without wills.V Continued on page 4.