Uphill battle to buy city police station

2019-10-07 16:24
The future of the Town Hill police station (slate roof) is in doubt.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

The future of the Town Hill police station (slate roof) is in doubt.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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The developers of the Athlone Circle shopping centre are still intent on buying the property housing the Town Hill police station from Msunduzi Municipality.

The sale has not been approved, more than a year after the offer was first made, but the developers have nevertheless been allowed to demolish part of the station which has been incorporated into the shopping centre.

Community members and police officers have been uncertain for months about the future of the police station after a “SOLD” sign was put up outside the building.

The property is owned by Msunduzi Municipality; the National Department of Public Works (NDPW) rents it on behalf of the SAPS for approximately R30 000 a month.

The NDPW confirmed that the multi-year lease expired in June and it is now on a month-to-month basis until the parties agree on the future of the police station.

Town Hill CPF chair Megan Nicol said the part of the police station that was demolished left them without a boardroom to hold their CPF meetings.

“A part of the police station has been demolished and has already been incorporated into the new development.

“The negotiations between the developer, SAPS and the municipality are still happening so we are all waiting to see who will eventually come to the party because everything is currently on hold.

“We need to look after our police, the same way they look after us,” she said.

The developers of the neighbouring R250 million Athlone Centre, Willmeg Investments, told The Witness that they have put forward a proposal to the Msunduzi Municipality to purchase the property.

The company, which is the property development subsidiary of Mattland Holdings, based in Howick, said they want to use the land to expand their footprint, primarily for additional parking, but also to rebuild the station.

Paul McCabe, managing director at Mattland Holdings, said that while their proposal is being considered by the municipality, there are many parties that need to work together for this to materialise.

“First and foremost, would be the interest of the SAPS themselves.

“The SAPS are housed by the Department of Public Works, who hold the lease with the Msunduzi Municipality.

“Our proposal deals with various aspects in this regard, such as the design, construction and fit out of a brand-new police station to specification for the SAPS on the same property — at no cost to them.

“The SAPS provide an invaluable service to the community, and in this way, we get to give back a little and ensure their continued service from the same property,” he added.

McCabe said that on the back of their purchase application, they obtained permission from all the parties involved to demolish a largely unused storeroom at the bottom of the property.

However, it was on the basis that should they be unsuccessful in their application, they would have to rebuild a similar storage facility on the property.

Spokesperson for the NDPW, Thami Mchunu, said the developer was committed to reserving a space in the mall to accommodate the SAPS free of charge.

He added that the SAPS had initially agreed to the offer by the developer, but towards the end of last year, the department was advised that SAPS was no longer prepared to vacate the premises.

“The SAPS also want to purchase the part where the police station is and the matter was then referred back to them [SAPS] to provide instruction to the department but up until today, they haven’t come back to the department,” said Mchunu.

Thobeka Mafumbatha, spokesperson for Msunduzi Municipality, said a meeting was held in August last year between Willmeg Investments, Msunduzi Municipality and the NDPW, during which it was agreed that the NDPW had no objection to the sale of the property.

However, a meeting between SAPS and the NDPW should be convened so that the police can advise whether they still need accommodation.

Mafumbatha said it was agreed at another meeting in November last year, with all relevant departments present, that the property would be sold to Willmeg, provided that they build a new police station with separate access from the shopping centre.

This is to ensure that the SAPS can continue to operate independently and provide services to the Town Hill community.

Mafumbatha said the land application is still circulating within the municipality’s internal line departments for comments regarding the proposed decision to sell.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  town hill police station
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