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Monday Feb 11, 2013

14-year battle to reclaim Parkhurst cul-de-sac

Brenda Lee embarked on an almost daily crusade to get the City of Joburg to enforce its own by-laws and act on an illegally extended property in her neighbourhood.

A crusade by Parkhurst resident Brenda Lee forced the City of Joburg to reclaim a portion of a cul de sac area which had being taken over by a neighbour.

It took the resident of Parkhurst dozens of letters of complaints to local councillors, lots of courage and a camera to take exhibit pictures.

She battled an "extremely disturbing" structure that blighted the streets of her neighbourhood.

And two weeks ago, almost 14 years later, Lee watched as the council finally demolished the wall that had been erected on a road reserve illegally.

The illegal structure, according to Lee, had not only caused an outcry in the area but had also blocked off some residents' driveways, water meters and denied children their playing space.

"It's been a long time coming, this," she said this week. "The space in front of my house was incredibly small. I couldn't move out of my driveway because of this wall which was illegally built to accommodate a crèche. It was undesirable and it made the whole suburb look like a slum."

She claimed properties in the area were being devalued as a result of the illegal structure and that it had affected their rates and taxes.

According to Tim Truluck, a local councillor in the area who took Lee's complaints to the council, authorities responsible for the road failed to take action despite a 2007 court order to demolish the wall.

"The property was extended onto a cul de sac which is a council land and over the years the property has been changing hands between different owners. The illegal structure had also blocked off water meters for other residents."

Truluck said the council had to start laying down the law to people who take over council land and send a strong message that this would not be tolerated.

He said the Parkhurst issue was one of the many that the city has not been able to deal with for years and that had it not been for the courage and determination of Lee, the road would still not have been reinstated.

Joburg mayoral member of committee on transport Rehana Moosajee, who intervened in the dispute and ensured the wall was demolished and the road reclaimed, said this should serve as a warning.

"People cannot just think they can do whatever they want on council land," she said. "This is our land and we will claim it back."

Joburg Road Agency's maintenance department head Silas Tloubatla said the owner of the Parkhurst property had been called to meeting before the demolition but had failed to show up.

The city has vowed to recover all the costs it has incurred in reinstating the road and the portion of land on the river bank that needs rehabilitation.

Lee's message was clear this week: Don't look away.

"You cannot achieve something by doing nothing.

"Sometimes it takes a long time when you are dealing council on these kind of matters but for the first time we have politicians who listen to us and lay down the law," she added.

Saturday Star

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