Balcony of historic, but dilapidated, Pietermaritzburg building to come down

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Msunduzi Municipality has declared this building in West Street a ‘problem building’.
Msunduzi Municipality has declared this building in West Street a ‘problem building’.
Nash Narrandes

The balcony of the historic building at 63 West Street will be demolished by Msunduzi Municipality because of the “potential threat to life”.

In addition, the owner of the building, Durban-based company Blue Storm, will have to pay for the demolition costs.

This follows an urgent application granted in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday.

The City’s municipal manager, Madoda Khathide, said in court papers that the balcony extends over the pedestrian walkway along the street.

ALSO READ: Pietermaritzburg’s rich heritage

He said the municipality is entitled to demolish a building should it be of the opinion that it is showing signs of potential danger to life or property.

Khathide added that during 2016, the municipality established the “problem building” bylaws. These were created to assist it in identifying problem buildings within its jurisdiction which would for example include buildings that are derelict in appearance, abandoned, structurally unsound or showing signs thereof and may be a threat or danger to life or property.

Since the establishment of the bylaws, the municipality has identified 50 properties in the city that contravene them.

Owners informed
In March 2018, the municipality sent a letter to Blue Storm stating that it was of the opinion that the property should be declared a “problem building” and unless the company made written representations as to why it should not be declared a “problem building”, it would be declared as such.

The municipality, he said, now seeks to control and manage dilapidated and problem buildings within its jurisdiction to ensure that such buildings comply with the bylaws as well as the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act.

In March 2018, the municipality sent a letter to Blue Storm stating that it was of the opinion that the property should be declared a “problem building” and unless the company made written representations as to why it should not be declared a “problem building”, it would be declared as such.

No response was received.

Then in May this year, the municipality’s attorneys sent another letter stating that the building had been declared a problem building. Once again no response was received.

“It is clear from the engineer’s report that the continued existence of this balcony poses an imminent danger to the lives of any pedestrian making use of the pedestrian walkway under this balcony.”
Madoda Khathide, Msunduzi municipal manager

In November, Shannon Lawrence from the municipality’s law firm went to the property and reported that the building is a double storey which is abandoned and unoccupied; has been damaged by a fire; the balcony at the front of the building which is above the pedestrian walkway along West Street is dilapidated; the windows and doors on the property are damaged and broken; the gutters, eaves and downpipes are all damaged and there is an accumulation of rubble on the property.

Following the report, Khathide added that the municipality then instructed KDA Consulting Engineers to provide an expert opinion on the structural stability of the balcony attached to the front of the property.

“It is clear from the engineer’s report that the continued existence of this balcony poses an imminent danger to the lives of any pedestrian making use of the pedestrian walkway under this balcony,” Khathide told the court.


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