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Northcliff’s eyesore due for upkeep

A vacant property found along Jacqueline Street presents itself as more than just an eyesore, it is also a safety concern.

Sonja Wookey has lived in Northcliff with her family since 1995, moving there after having fallen in love with not only the neighbourhood, but also that it is close to the green lung of the city.

It has been suburban bliss for her and all her neighbours found living along Jacqueline Street for years. This was up until about a year ago, when a property was demolished and, according to Wookey, sold for salvage. She said the same property was then sold to develop 14 units, which they all collectively objected to and they now await a tribunal hearing. It has been within this time that the property owner is described as ‘having neglected the property’.

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Sonja Wookey looks into the property.
Sonja Wookey looks into the property.

“The property owner has neglected the property and the sidewalk; this is a neighbourhood where people look after their property and this one is not only an eyesore, but a security risk too.”
She said such a property allows for vagrants and for possible thieves to hide within undetected. When Wookey eventually got hold of Ward 88 councillor Nicolene Jonker, the councillor helped with giving her the contact details of entities to engage with regarding the matter.

Ever since, she has been liaising with the Department of Environmental Health through emails and got little engagement on the matter. “What do you do? I do not know what to do anymore. More than this I cannot do,” she pleaded.
Though this property has been of some concern to the community for the past year, it has in the last couple of months become a real concern to them. Wookey shared that as community they briefly discussed taking matters into their own hands and clearing out some of the overgrown parts. “I would happily contribute towards this but I feel you must also let the owner acknowledge responsibility for their property. If nothing gets done then I guess we will have to clean it up.”

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Operational manager of the department Sikhumbuza Mtshali said they were made aware of the matter through the ward councillor. An inspection of the property was conducted in April 2,3 during an Integrated Visible Service Delivery, “The vacant stand was found to be overgrown with grass and weeds. The owner of the stand was contacted on the same day and on April 24, there was no answer. They responded to the call on May 7, and committed to cleaning the stand from May 15 onwards,” she said.

Mtshali said it is important that vacant property owners maintain their properties by making sure the grass and weeds are cut and no rubble, refuse and unused materials are left on the property. Should a property owner not be compliant in this regard, the city issues notice to the registered owner/s giving them up to 21 days to clean the stand. “If there is no action, the matter is referred to City Parks to clean the stand and the registered owner is billed thereafter,” he described.

Jonker said, “Seeing empty plots left unattended by their owners can be pretty disheartening, as not only does it impact the neighbourhood‘s aesthetic appeal, it can also pose safety and environmental risks.”

She added that the city’s environmental team faces numerous challenges in persuading property owners to take responsibility for their land, often due to hurdles and owner reluctance. “A proactive approach, such as stricter regulations, could help alleviate these difficulties and ensure a cleaner, safer community for everyone,” said Jonker.

The pavement of the property is overgrown with weeds.
The pavement of the property is overgrown with weeds.

On June 7, the paper contacted Wookey to find out if the property was in fact attended to. She said that little was done to clear the overgrown vegetation that now stands mid-calf level as opposed to the knee-high level it previously did. “A man came for a couple of days but he did not clear up the rubbish or put it into the rubbish bag. Of course there have been some rains since and the weeds are probably back to their high length again.”

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