Court order for West Bank abandoned plots

LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS: Abandoned plots in West Bank. Picture: TAMMY FRAY

The municipality has been issued with a court order to address the growing number of abandoned plots in West Bank within 180 days.

Issued in October, the court order was pursued by the Centre for Local Community Rights.

Residents who approached the centre for help, said their livelihoods have been compromised in the last 12 years by increasing number of abandoned and neglected plots.

Many plot owners have died or moved away.

On June 30, the residents held a meeting with officials from BCMM environmental affairs, at which the municipality committed to auction off the abandoned plots within 12 months if the owners of the plots were not able to meet the bill that would be sent to them from the municipality for cleaning up the plot.

The community said nothing had materialised of this commitment in the intervening months and the crime, dumping and even sexual assault perpetuated at the abandoned plots is proliferating.

The court order requires the municipality to issue notice to the owners of eight identified plots on Victoria Street, Hood Street and Strand Street, among others and to update the Centre for Local Community Rights on progress made to contact the owners. The court order also compels the municipality to force the owners to clean their plots. If failing to do so, the municipality must clear the plots and surrounding areas of illegal dumping and rubble.

The court order permits the municipality 180 days to contact the owners of the plots and to provide feedback.

West Bank ward councillor Shandre Hoffman said the court order was long overdue.

Hoffman said: “It will only benefit the residents of West Bank. These plots attract a variety of issues including illegal occupation by vagrants, becoming dump sites and becoming breeding ground for snakes and rats.

The buildings have become drug dens, adding to crime in the area.

“Most of the plots are privately owned and not maintained by the municipality. This negatively affects those living next to these plots.”

Resident and ward committee member, Thandile Panyana hoped the court order would be effective, as community interest groups would like to use the plots for community gardens, parks, and other outreach activities.

Panyana said: “As the CPF, we have encountered problems from these properties as they are used to hide stolen goods and other unwanted substances.

“It is traumatising as one is consistently looking over one’s shoulder, aware of the dangers these properties hold, and not so long-ago fires have broken loose from these properties.

“Rape and assault cases have stemmed from these properties.

“My reaction to the court order is gratitude and relief.”

Centre for Local Community Rights chair Christo Theart said that the unwillingness to implement bylaws forced residents to pursue legal action.

Theart said: “The sad part is that the municipality refuse to act on complaints received from local communities and direct their complaints to us. We have taken the municipality to court on many occasions in the past for derelict buildings, yet they still do nothing.

“The presence of abandoned buildings can create legal issues that lower property values, contribute to urban blight and create legal issues for property owners and local authorities.

“Some of the buildings are owned by the municipality.”


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