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The City of Cape Town needs to correct the misleading information regarding the library that is being operated by Mr John Nicholson from a garage in Lavender Hill that has been publicised in the media and is circulating on social media platforms. Read more below:

I can confirm that the City’s Development Management Department did not give an instruction, nor serve a notice on the property owner, Mr John Nicholson, to shut down the library that he has been operating from his garage in Lavender Hill.

Officials from the City’s Development Management Department investigated this claim since it was brought to our attention by the Daily Voice on Wednesday 4 April 2018. We indicated in a written response to the Daily Voice that the allegation of an administrative penalty was not determined. Thus, the allegation of a R30 000 ‘penalty’ being imposed by the City is not true.

Herewith the facts:

· To date, the City has not conducted any inspections at the property.

· On 27 March 2018, the donor conduit and executive director of Biblionef, Jean Williams, contacted the Cape Flats district planning office asking to set up an appointment for assistance as there were no building plans for the carport structure owned by Mr Nicholson. Biblionef received a donation from a Belgian donor to repair of the roof, but Ms Williams wanted to ensure that the property was compliant before the donation could be utilised.

· On 28 March 2018, Mr Nicholson and Mrs Williams met with an official to discuss the process that needed to be followed in order to submit a building plan to regularise the unauthorised carport structure, and to replace the roof as well as obtain the land use application that is required in order to use the premises for purposes other than its intended residential use.

· Mr Nicholson was informed that his current unauthorised structure will incur an administrative penalty in terms of the Municipal Planning By-law, 2015. He was informed that the amount would have to be determined by the Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) according to the relevant criteria. At no stage did any official mention an amount, as this would need to be determined by a committee. The claim about a R30 000 penalty is therefore not true.

· During the meeting, Mr Nicholson indicated that the roof was in bad condition. This was of major concern. Mr Nicolson was advised to submit a building plan for the structure.

· Importantly, by the end of the meeting, Mr Nicholson and Mrs Williams agreed to ensure that due process is followed in order to ensure that the structure would be compliant.

My office contacted Ms Williams. She informed us that she, together with Mr Nicholson, decided out of their own will to pack up the books in the library. They did so on 28 March 2018 following their meeting with the land use official. They decided to store the books while the roof, which needed to be repaired, was removed.

Ms Williams indicated that the roof will be removed this weekend. For this reason, as of Monday 9 April 2018, arrangements have been made to accommodate the children, who are part of the library initiative, at a nearby church. There they will have access to two trunks of books. The remaining books are currently being stored at Bibilonef.

The City welcomes and appreciates initiatives by residents who are contributing to the wellbeing of their communities. As such, we are appreciative of Mr John Nicholson’s efforts in establishing the library, and we are doing all we can to assist from our side to ensure that the building complies with the National Building Regulations and Municipal Planning By-law.

We are pleased that Mr Nicholson and Ms Williams approached us for assistance to ensure that they follow due process, in line with the National Building Regulations and the Buildings Standards Act. These national regulations, as well as our Municipal Planning By-law, are in place to provide owners with the certainty that their structures are safe for occupants. The activity will also require a land use consent application as the property is zoned for residential purposes.

Given that the users of this space are children, all of us must work together to ensure that the safety aspect of the structure is not compromised.

Officials are committed to assisting Mr Nicholson and Mrs Williams to ensure that the building is compliant.

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