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Monday Nov 11, 2013

Durban property owners unite to save Berea

Fed up after years of struggling to get the department of land use management and enforcement to take decisive action against lawlessness in the Durban suburb of Berea, residents Cheryl Johnson and lawyer Shahir Ramdass are taking on council officials.

Johnson is rallying the thousands of visitors to her website, Save Our Berea, to attend a meeting at the end of the month in the St Thomas Church Hall, Musgrave Road (date yet to be set), to discuss protesting against the proliferation of illegal businesses, neglected and abandoned properties, vagrancy and prostitution, among other issues.

Ramdass has mounted a legal challenge of his own against a trust that has built an unauthorised home in upmarket Montpelier Road, despite vociferous protests by him and other residents. On Friday he told City Watch that he had finally been successful in obtaining an interdict against the building's owners.

Johnson told City Watch she hoped city representatives would attend the meeting to 'face the music', but did not expect them to turn up.

'Would you come?' she asked rhetorically. 'We tried to get the head of the development planning department, Soobs Moonsammy, to attend, but it seems we have driven her out of town and she is in hiding in an ashram.'

Johnson said she and the other four members of her action group would take their lead from those who attended the meeting, but that public action was 'definitely not out of the question'.

'We are taking this one step at a time, and are 100 percent committed to finding solutions for our suburb,' she said.

'We won't give up, and already there has been an incredible transformation here. I never believed we had a genuine spirit of community on the Berea, but facing these challenges together has united us as never before.

'Our supporters have adopted the Facebook page as their own, and we are standing shoulder to shoulder to face down the civil servants who believe they can treat the ratepayers who pay their salaries with contempt.'

Ramdass and other residents of Montpelier Road launched strenuous objections earlier this year against the construction of a building owned by the Sayed Family Trust at number 263 that did not have planning approval. They complained that their views would be ruined and the structure, which is stylistically incompatible with much older, listed buildings nearby, had lowered the value of their properties.

Because the matter is now sub judice, and despite the fact that Ramdass is the attorney of record, he was only able to go into print with the following statement: 'Shahir Ramdass and Ramdass and Associates were successful in obtaining an urgent order interdicting further construction on the property, save for what was permitted by the court in terms of the order dispatched for the sake of safety.'

Co-applicant Dave McNaught, who, like Ramdass, owns a flat whose view is now obscured by the property, said: 'The court has permitted the Sayed Family Trust to complete work on the roof, sewer system and retaining wall. The matter has been set down for review in March.'

McNaught said that he and the other applicants, Ramdass and Yaseen Khan, had no objection to owners developing their properties, but 'the rights of owners must always be offset against the rights of their neighbours. In this case there was a direct infringement on our rights, and we will defend that.'

The deputy head of development planning in the municipality's Development Planning and Environment Management Unit, Lihle Phewa, responded: 'The unit will be more than happy to meet Johnson and other complainants to address their concerns. However, we will require them to file those complaints in writing prior to meeting so we can have time to investigate the same and be able to provide responses.

'To assist the process, complaints must be specific and property addresses provided.'

Sunday Tribune


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