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Monday Dec 10, 2012

Illegal business threaten legendary Durban surfshop

An illegal business on the doorstep of iconic Larmont Surf keeps away customers and is a health hazard reports Vivian Attwood.

Mike Larmont is a legend in surfing circles and still catches a couple of waves before work - and his Durban shop, Larmont Surf, is still going strong in the same premises at 98 West Street.

But, as he complained to CityWatch, he's facing a loss of custom because of an illegal glass recycling operation that is thriving on the pavement next to the shop's parking bays.

Larmont's many customers are tired of having their tyres punctured by shards of glass littering the ground. When customers try to park on the opposite pavement to avoid the hazard, they are ticketed by zealous traffic officers. It's become a no-win situation, and Larmont is about to lose his legendary cool.

"It started in a small, insidious way over a year ago," he told CityWatch. "A woman of around 60 approached me and asked if she could place her wheelie bins on the verge opposite the shop 'for a few days' while her flat was being renovated.

"The days turned into months, and every time I asked her when she was going to remove them, she said, 'Soon'.

"Meanwhile, bins filled with glass bottles had begun to appear throughout the day, and they were being emptied into enormous polyethylene bags. When the bags get too full, her hirelings smash the bottles with hammers so they can get more in.

"Glass flies everywhere, and when it rains, it covers the tar as well as the pavement.

"There are huge rats in among the bags, and when they are collected - at first every three weeks, but now every week - a huge pantechnicon blocks the road completely and customers have no access to parking at all.

"Business is really suffering and I can't get any joy out of the council departments I've approached. Someone told me 'off the record' that the problem is being deliberately overlooked because the old lady has a contact at City Hall. I hope that's not true. As one of the few surviving surf shops in an area where they used to be plentiful, I feel I've earned the right to run my business without this sort of hassle."

When CityWatch visited Larmont Surf, our photographer was threatened and insulted by a woman sorting the bottles. "You journalists deserve the beatings you get," she yelled. "I have permission from council to work here. Get out of here."

CityWatch sent e-mails to the following council officials in an attempt to resolve the issue: Municipal Services manager Sifiso Denzil Xulu; iTRUMP head Hoosen Moola; Roads and Stormwater Management head Ken Hobson; deputy head of Roads Roy Gooden; Durban Solid Waste head Raymond Rampersad and City Health deputy head Neil Larrat.

Larrat said his team would launch an immediate investigation into the contravention and provide CityWatch with an update once their findings became available.

Hoosen Moola informed CityWatch that the operation was definitely illegal, and the council "can charge for obstruction of pavement and illegal business". He promised that DSW would intervene and clean up the area.

The Divisional Commander of Metro Police, Eddie von Bargen, told CityWatch that, "We will be issuing a warning for her to remove the bottles, and Clive Powell of City Health will assist during the week to have the bottles removed."

Sunday Tribune


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