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Friday Aug 10, 2012

No stone unturned in Houghton heritage wall war

The sheet metal fencing erected around a heritage property in Houghton has to be removed within 30 days.

Authorities have ordered that this fence must be removed within 30 days.

This is the finding of Eric Itzkin, deputy director of Immovable Heritage for the City of Joburg.

The issue was raised in Metrowatch on March 9 when Houghton residents complained about the unsightly sheet metal fencing that was replacing a stone wall that is older than 60 years old.

A site inspection was held last week by officials from the city's building control and community development and arts, culture and heritage departments.

Itzkin said the property fell under the Department of Public Works. "A notice was issued by the building inspector stating that the steel structure erected above the existing stone wall at number 35 is regarded as a contravention of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, and that the matter needs to be rectified within 30 days.

"The notice was served by the building inspector to a representative of the owner, who gave an assurance that the steel fencing will be taken down and replaced with electric fencing," said Itzkin.

The fence was erected around the perimeter of the old house, upsetting local residents who claimed it was "terrible and offensive".

Letizia Verona, a member inconsiderate 'visual noise' it is making within its environment".

The glare from the sun reflecting off the steel was also causing inconvenience.

Owner Joe Ribeiro, who lives next door to the property, told Metrowatch the house was abandoned and his sister had bought it. Vandals and thieves started entering the property and were causing a general disturbance and security threat for the whole area.

Ribeiro said at the time that he did not have funds to erect a wall similar to the old one as it would cost at least R3 million. He took issue with Metrowatch, saying the photograph of an original Herbert Baker wall printed with the article showed what the fence had looked like, not what it had become.

"The wall and fencing was broken and vandalised and looked nothing like the original. Had this been the case, I would never have taken it down," he said.

Ribeiro said he had spent R800 000 on the temporary sheeting until he had funds to restore the house. He said that according to the by-laws, he believed he was permitted to use corrugated iron.

Ward councillor Marcelle Ravid called in the heritage authorities, arguing that metal sheeting was only permitted if it was used on the original property, and it was not. "The law has to be obeyed, and I am satisfied with this ruling," she said.

The Star

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