The Sardinia Bay Surf Lifesaving Club’s clubhouse which is set to be demolished after being declared unsafe.                                            Photo: MORNÉ DU RANDT
The Sardinia Bay Surf Lifesaving Club’s clubhouse which is set to be demolished after being declared unsafe. Photo: MORNÉ DU RANDT

THE Sardinia Bay Surf Lifesaving Club (SBSLC) is now officially homeless after the process of demolition of their 40-year-old clubhouse was set to start on Monday, August 29.

At time of going to print on Monday, the demolition had not yet begun.

The reason for the demolition is that the building had been declared unsafe by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, citing changing weather patterns which caused the sand dunes to shift, leaving the clubhouse too close to the sea.

Cara-Lee Dorfling reports that because the high water mark has reached this point, the structure is now within the Sardinia Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA), according to the definition of an MPA in the Integrated Coastal Management Act (Act No. 24 of 2008).

According to municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki, the high water mark level has risen to the seaward facing base of the structures, noted during full moon, high tide periods. This has resulted in exposure of the super structure foundations of the buildings.

“The ground level sections of the structure are also dilapidated due to vandalism. The natural weathering conditions have also affected the structural integrity of the balcony support gum poles,” Mniki said.

He added that it has been observed that the SBSLC have “illegally erected gabion structures in an attempt to deflect or restrict the tidal action.”

“The Integrated Coastal Management Act Act prohibits any acts or physical response to erosion or accretion on coastal public property. No person may construct, maintain or extend any structure, or take any other measures to prevent or promote erosion or accretion of the seashore in respect of coastal public property,” Mniki said.

A professional structural assessment was conducted by consulting engineers in May 2016 and the overall finding was that: “foundations and balconies of the structures are found within the highwater mark zone and are under constant threat to erode and without continual maintenance will result in hazardous conditions being created, followed by instant structural collapse.”

Challenges faced

In recent years, the SBSLC have had to face numerous challenges, which include the closure of the Sardinia Bay road; the increasing number of break-ins and the fact that they had no running water or electricity.

Sue Hoffman, Club Secretary, says that the clubhouse is not unsafe, and claims that it is the Ski Boat Club located next to their building that is run-down. “The SBSLC have maintained their clubhouse over the years,” Hoffman said.
“Our lifesavers are family people who have given of their time for 44 years willingly for the Port Elizabeth public, expecting nothing in return.”

New proposed site in parking area

The SBSLC committee have been in negotiations with the NMBM since May for both temporary and long-term solutions or alternatives to the demolition.

The NMBM Coastal Management section has identified an area for the new clubhouse, which is in a parking area, with no view of the ocean. Furthermore, Godfrey Murrel, Acting Director of Environmental Management, is hoping to have the new area ready in December, by which time the swimming season will be well underway.

According to George Branford, a member of NMBM Coastal Management, the reason that the preparation of the new site is not running parallel to the demolition of the old one, is due to the fact that they had to put the request in to the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) and are still awaiting response.

“The demolition cannot be postponed either, as the municipality has to either use the money set aside for it or lose it altogether,” Branford said.

There is, however, a proposed solution for the lack of sea view for when the new clubhouse is erected in the parking area. The NMBM Economic Development, Tourism and Agriculture (EDTA) Directorate are currently sourcing quotations for two movable lifeguard towers, which would allow the lifesaver/s on duty to have line of sight with the beach/bathing area as well as visual contact with members who are stationed at the new proposed SBLSC site. Two way radios would further assist communication.

“Our hand has also been forced to a degree with regard to our expenditure and the very real fact of losing unspent funds with the up and coming Municipal budget review period,” said Branford.

Hoffman reckons that without a permanent structure, the club stands to lose all its current members, and rebuilding a new team can take up to five years.

“Without seeming unreasonable, we are receiving no financial compensation at all for the destruction of our club.”

Hoffman added that due to the confusion created by the situation, and lack of a permanent structure, there is a real possibility that the voluntary lifesaving for this season will be suspended.

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