Advocates silence noisy neighbours

2017-05-22 11:42
The construction work next to the advocates chambers.

The construction work next to the advocates chambers. (Ingrid Oellermann)

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Pietermaritzburg - Advocates got a court order on Friday to stop their noisy neighbours from using jackhammers to carry out demolition work on weekdays between 10:00 and 16:00.

The noise made by the compressors (which power the jackhammers) is described as “a deep droning noise similar to that of a big truck or diesel generator” while the jackhammers make a “loud, fast hammering noise” and generate vibrations that are transmitted to the advocates’ chambers, according to court papers.

Friday’s court order — eventually granted in terms of an agreement between the parties — was the result of an urgent application lodged in the high court by the Pietermaritzburg Bar Committee and seven of its advocates against the minister of Public Works and Elias Mechanicos Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (Pty) Ltd.

The company has been contracted by the Department of Public Works to develop its property at 19 Prince Edward Street (adjacent to the advocates’ chambers) into a nine-storey office block to house the offices of the director of public prosecutions as well as a parking garage.

According to court papers the advocates felt they had no other recourse than to litigate after promises that the noise levels would lessen after a month failed to materialise earlier this year.

Instead the most recent deadline they were given for the completion of the demolition work was “possibly” the end of June or even July this year.

In an affidavit in support of the application the chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Bar, advocate Yoga Moodley SC said construction work on the property started on February 10 this year.

The problem the advocates have is the use of jackhammers powered by compressors which are being used to demolish heavy concrete slabs in a building that will be converted for use as a parking garage.

“These pieces of equipment are extremely noisy and are causing a major nuisance for virtually all advocates practising at 17 Prince Edward Street ... When demolition takes place on this building the machines are never more than 20 metres from the advocates’ chambers and no more than 22 metres from the interior of the chambers and office adjacent to the passages,” he said.

Moodley said he and the other advocates have been prejudiced in their practices by the noise caused particularly by the jackhammers and compressors. While initially the sound had been deeply disturbing it was “at least to some extent tolerable”.

“However as time progressed the level of noise exacerbated to a level where working in chambers became virtually impossible. The noise has seriously affected our consultations with clients, our dictation and other work-related matters to our profession, such as reading and digesting information.”

He said a secretary had complained of migraines and headaches. In his office the noise was so severe at times that the furniture in his chambers vibrates, he added. The noise starts from 7 am and carries on almost continuously throughout the day until it stops at about 4.30 pm.

“I have tried in my capacity as chairperson to be most accommodating [to the department and the construction company] ... I have also been extremely patient and had to placate various advocates who have bitterly complained to me about the noise levels and asked them to put up with the noise as I was advised it would last approximately one month,” said Moodley.

He said an e-mail sent on February 10 was replied to by the DPW’s principal agent and architect, Marcel Henry. It stated that the building work was expected to last a minimum of 20 months including “approximately one month of demolition to remove the existing structures on site”.

Moodley said when the month “came and went” and the noise continued he had written further letters but nothing had come of the various discussions. Moodley said he was shocked and surprised when he was told on May 11 by the project’s contract manager, Ricardo Lurou, that he was not aware of any measures that could muffle the sound and “that demolition work would be completed by the end of June or at the latest, the end of July”.

“Whilst the Bar accepts that anybody working in a modern city is required to tolerate a certain amount of noise nuisance, particularly when it is caused by the construction of a building which will undoubtedly be of public benefit, I respectfully submit that the members of the Bar and their employees cannot be expected to put up with the level of noise being generated on the (DPW) property,” said Moodley.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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