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Tuesday Jan 21, 2014

Cape Town wants to play hardball over illegal property alterations

The City of Cape Town wants a South African-born tycoon to demolish glass balustrades and granite cladding that have been illegally added to his multimillion rand bungalow in Clifton.

The Good Hope subcouncil has refused two applications for building alterations to the house owned by businessman Vivian Imerman and called for the urgent demolition of any structures that do not comply with council regulations.

It also wants an investigation of all 99 bungalows along the Atlantic Seaboard to see if there are similar deviations at other properties in the area.

Imerman, who lives in London, wants council approval for glass balustrades and granite cladding which have already been added to his bungalow. A second application deals with extensions to the building and swimming pool.

'This glass, aluminium and marble construction is not compliant with building laws,' said Taki Amira, subcouncil chair.

'There is no way that we can support an application that is completely undesirable to the Clifton bungalows.' Amira said this was a 'glowing example' of how property owners living outside of the country would buy property in Cape Town and then break 'virtually every building law'.

'Enough is enough. This thing must come down.'

There was only one objection to the proposed alterations, subject to an agreement with the owner.

But ward councillor for the area, Beverley Schafer, said there was a tendency for neighbours to support applications because of similar unauthorised work being done on their own properties.

'In 10 years time there won't be a general look and feel to the Clifton bungalows,' she said.

'We have got a responsibility to keep the heritage look and feel.'

Greg September of the city's zoning department said there was no formal policy regulating the way buildings in Clifton should look, just a draft document that had yet to be approved.

'Operationally it will be difficult to inspect every property so it would be better to formalise the design guidelines.'

Attempts to get a demolition order would be guided by this policy, he said.

The document, entitled 'Guidelines for work in bungalows' heritage areas', dealt with design criteria for buildings along this portion of the Atlantic Seaboard. It described the wooden 'family of buildings', which date back to 1903, as 'significant cultural landscapes' worthy of conservation.

It recommended that materials used should be natural and textured, such as stone and timber, as these have 'strong historical links with the area'. Amira said the use of granite and glass at Imerman's property was not in keeping with the look and feel of the area.

'If there is any building that stands to be demolished, it should be this one.'

The city's environmental management and heritage resources branch has raised objections, saying that the additions were not in keeping with the bungalow area. The granite was also visible from publicly accessible places. The glass balustrades were at odds with the low boundary walls and picket fences favoured in the area.

The Clifton on Sea and District Bungalow Owners' Association has also raised concerns about the range of applications for 'undesirable' works at this property.

'The net result of hard surfaces, such as glass balustrades, high walls and the total absence of vegetation - especially along public paths - is not only to detract from the visual fabric and character of the Bungalow Heritage Area, but also serves to amplify the level of acoustic echo from pedestrian and vehicular traffic to the detriment of all users in the area.'

Schafer said the matter should be referred to the city's legal services.

'We are doing ourselves a disservice if this property goes ahead.'

Cape Argus


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