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Action at S-West ‘eyesore’ at last

A “problem building” on the corner of Dummer Street and Main Road in Somerset West has been cleared of illegal occupants. The property is now also fenced.

This follows months of neglect that resulted in the site being stripped of anything of value and becoming a haven for vagrants, some of them suspected of crimes committed in the surrounding area.

Last month, the City of Cape Town considered officially declaring the property a problem building and was on the verge of bricking-up all the entrances.

Gregory Peck, Ward 15 councillor, said the owner of the property has now complied with council’s Problem Building and Planning bylaws.

“The owner has erected a fence around the property, evicted all those who were inhabiting the buildings and removed all the loose roofing and brickwork,” he said.

“The City’s planning department still has to approve the new building plans. Once that is done, the owner can start constructing the new building.”

In June, DistrictMail reported on homeless people who had moved into the building and stripped it of everything of value (“Building pillaged and plundered”, 13 June). They claimed to have permission to live there and promised to protect and guard it with their lives.

At the time, the property’s owner, Jose de Abreu, stated the building was earmarked for a R20 million development and one of the tenants would be a well-known estate agency. He claimed to have tried everything to rid the building of vagrants and refused to take the blame for the then situation.

When contacted this week, De Abreu said he spent a significant amount of money to conduct a “clean-up” in compliance with certain requirements. He apparently also met with local police in the hopes of finding a sustainable solution.

“Amendments were made to the original site development plan as per requirements and we are now awaiting a permit, which we expect to be issued in the next few days,” he said. “Only then can we submit the building plans for approval.”

Meanwhile, De Abreu is concerned about the issue of vagrancy and the risk his property faces as the process of approvals takes its course.

“The vagrants have moved just a few metres away to a public open space owned by the City, where they loiter. It’s easy to blame the victim when vagrants move into and destroy a property but now that they’ve been removed, the problem persists. Many properties are at risk of being invaded and one cannot ignore the criminal element. We are trying to get the City to act to find sustainable solutions and we will host a public meeting on the matter very soon.”

He said more details would be made available closer to the time.

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