An extensive investigation by City of Cape Town officials into the closure of what was thought to be a public lane has revealed almost three decades of appeals and decisions.
Green Point residents raised concerns over the closure of Mossat Lane by a neighbouring property owner in December. The lane is used as a public thoroughfare, but it then emerged that the lane had been consolidated into the neighbouring property.
It was initially thought the “decision to approve this consolidation along with the building plan approval from February 2016 may have been made incorrectly”, explains ward councillor Dave Bryant.
However, after an extensive investigation, it was found that a decision to close the lane, made by City officials in 1991, had not been rescinded.
The first attempt to have the lane closed happened in 1986 and was initially opposed because the walkway was used by schoolchildren. That application was refused in 1988.
However, in 1990 a resident asked for the application to be reopened due to crime in the area. It was then decided by officials to allow the closure of the lane.
At this time, the lane was consolidated into the neighbouring property and ceased to be City property. However, the owner did not close the lane at the time and locals assumed the lane was still public property and continued to use it.
Two years later, an application to reopen the lane was made to the full council at a meeting in December 1992, says Bryant.
“At this meeting a vote was taken where it was resolved to reopen the lane to the public. A fence which had been erected was subsequently taken down. However, the official closure and consolidation was never officially followed up on and the status remained the same,” he says.
The official status of the lane was never changed so it remained the private resident’s property as declared in 1991, Bryant says.
“The City’s legal department is currently being consulted as to whether or not a resolution of the old council from 1992 can be enforced 25 years later, taking into account the impact on the current owner’s existing property rights.”
The current property owner’s building plans to build into the lane were approved in February last year, says Bryant. When the owner then closed the lane, members of the public raised objections.
The objections centred on access, Bryant says, but officials have found the closure of the lane results in only a 50 m detour for pedestrians.
“There has also been the concern over a precedent being set. However, it’s highly unlikely the City council would agree to close a lane. Each application is assessed on its own merit,” he says.