Bay building decay nightmare

Years of inaction have hampered plans to rejuvenate the inner city and rid the area of derelict buildings

Plans to rejuvenate the inner city and rid the area of derelict buildings – a haven for criminals – are under way, but years of inaction have hampered the process.
After a two-month investigation into problem buildings, Weekend Post can reveal that the Eastern Cape Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (ECPHRA) is a major stumbling block, with heritage-building alteration applications allegedly delayed for over a decade.
Lack of action by officials in the metro is also being blamed.
Crucial to plans to rid the city of crime-ridden, derelict buildings is the municipality putting its foot down and ensuring owners of buildings that have fallen into disrepair fix them – issuing fines or taking action through the courts if they do not.
In efforts to find out what the municipality was doing The Herald launched a Promotion of Information Act (PIA) application, asking who had been fined and what action had been taken.
At a meeting in May, officials insisted they were at an advanced stage when it came to dealing with these buildings with lawyers appointed to assist.
Human settlements political head Nqaba Bhanga said efforts to speed up the process for developers to get permission from the ECPHRA was also under way.Bhanga, who is on the steering committee for problem buildings, refused to give the names of identified buildings or errant developers. Instead, the municipality gave the number of buildings under investigation, including 23 in Central and four in North End.
Asked about resistance from the ECPHRA, Bhanga said officials were currently liaising with the society.
Bhanga said progress included the establishment of the problem building task team involving various municipal directorates, ongoing meetings with landlords and the appointment of the lawyers.
Future plans include the problem building bylaw, earmarked to be tabled in July.
“We have even sent notices to government departments to tell them if they fail to take action we will be forced to take action,” Bhanga said.
Bhanga confirmed property developers had pointed the finger at the ECPHRA.
Figures show that to date, 39 buildings have been identified with four dealt with already. Of the remaining 35 buildings, 26 were served with notices and nine condemned as they were dangerous.
Of the 26 that were served notices, 15 were abandoned and occupied by squatters, with 11 suspected to be used for illegal activities.
Prominent Bay property developer Ken Denton said the stalling of developments had cost him millions.
Denton said he had recently met with the metro.
“They seem serious about taking action and getting the area revitalised. Permission from the municipality is not the issue, it is mostly a matter of permission from the heritage society”
Denton said he had waited almost 12 years to get permission to restore the old Post Office in Baakens Street.“I flew in a specialist architect from London to design the building in a way that the historic features are kept. It cost me about R400 000 to get building plans and paperwork ready to submit.
“This was submitted in 2006 and to this day I am still waiting,” he said.No backlog, heritage body says
Despite fingers being pointed at the Eastern Cape Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (ECPHRA), built environment administrative officer NomaAfrica Maxongo-Fishile denied any backlog of building restoration or development applications.
She said: “There is no backlog. It is understandable that there is an impression created amongst the developers and professionals due to the known challenges ECPHRA had to go through all these years.”
ECPHRA council chairwoman Christina Jikelo also denied backlogs, but said the society’s efforts were severely hampered by budget restraints.
“The ECPHRA, as a provincial public entity, has since its establishment never been allocated budget that is compatible with its legal mandate.
“With the limited budget it struggled for years to attract appropriately skilled professionals – an unfortunate situation that continues to hamper service delivery.”Jikelo said the society’s current council had been officially inaugurated by MEC Pemmy Majodina in April last year and had not been contacted by the metro regarding applications.
Jikelo said it had identified the “shortcomings with the public entity” and was working to develop a turnaround strategy.
The society has no manager and only two staff members handling applications for the entire province.
Asked when a manager would be appointed, Jikelo said: “The recruitment process has already started and because the appointment is long overdue, interviews will be conducted before the end of June.”
Asked about the turnaround of applications, she said they were mainly dependent on the availability of resources and cooperation between the department and developers as well as municipalities.
Jikelo said the Eastern Cape could not be compared with the Western Cape heritage society, which had professional staff dealing with applications as well as four administrative officers and a minimum of two interns per year.
Asked how it planned to address these issues, she said: “The new council has had several meetings with the department, since it started, to address the main issue of budget as the main abler in this situation .
“As a result of these meetings, the 2018- 19 budget has increased slightly.”

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