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HANDY MAC: City of Cape Town makes a plan

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Approval for alterations plans a nice surprise but debate on city’s new submission system still rages

Mrs Mac and our gardener seem happy today while I am sad. What they see as de-cluttering is judged by me to be akin to saying goodbye to old friends. 

But Mrs Mac is right – if something is lying in a corner and starting to rust, there is little chance it is ever going to be put back into service. So, between my clothes and garage cupboards some clear space has been created, favourite shirts I thought had been lost have been recovered, and there is space on my work-benches which is encouraging me to start tinkering with some forgotten projects again. It is a great stress release to bang in a few nails or clean up and plane some wood.

Talking of space, how many of you are planning to extend your homes and are waiting for the council to approve your plans? We had a pleasant surprise – an old client phoned and asked when we could start his building alterations.

We had all but forgotten him, his email having arrived in November complaining about the City of Cape Town’s plan-approval process. He had started the process in July last year. It is not always that bad and I believe that the city now has a new system whereby plans can be submitted online.

The city’s director for development management, Cheryl Walters, says: “A minimum time could be two days, depending on the quality and details of the building plan.”

The plan needs to be “clean” – issues around heritage sites, environmental concerns, parking requirements and water and electricity supply etc need to be resolved before the plans can be brought into the process and this takes time. The industry does not agree.

Henk Lourens, president of the Cape Institute for Architecture, says: “Once you are used to the system it runs quite smoothly – until such time as you hear there is perhaps a document missing or something needs to be done, and you then want to upload the new documents or changes, and you discover the plan has been withdrawn, not by yourself or your client, but by a city official.”

This was discussed on CapeTalk radio recently and the podcast of that broadcast is interesting. The differences between the authority’s and industry’s opinions shows how far we still need to go to get a system that is fair for all.

“Executive” developments are approved in days; the rest of us can wait months. I would love to get feedback on the new submission system to see what the architectural profession thinks. In the radio interview, Walters offered to send staff out to firms battling with the new system.

Q and A

Save electricity by using solar power for pool pumps. Picture: Carl Attard

Jack is trying to save electricity: 

Q: Could you advise me if there are any solar-driven pool pumps and where to obtain one?

A: Yes, there are quite a number available – I saw one at a home I visited recently. I cannot recommend a particular make or model as it is not really my field. But you can search on the internet.

I do know the size of the pool and type of filter will determine what size pump you need but, as you are not paying for electricity, you can run the pump longer.

Some years ago, I had my pool pump changed for a smaller model, and the saving on electricity has been great, but the smaller pump does not have enough power for the Kreepy Krauly, so I have had to invest in an electricity-driven pool cleaner. This means I am probably paying the same as I did originally.

Talking about pools, I must have a little boast here and report that since I introduced regular back-washing, my pool has stayed sparklingly clear for five months.

I helped Rob with a geyser problem two years ago. He now asks advice about the two in his home which he plans to sell:

Q:We moved into a home with two geysers. My plumber re-routed the piping to one and we switched the other off. I think this was a good economical move as there are only two of us. Now we want to sell. Should I return to two geysers? Not sure of the ramifications for the electricity certificate of compliance.

A: I doubt if your current set-up would affect you getting a compliance certificate. But I would make it clear to both your agent and any prospective buyer what the situation is. It is then up to the buyer to decide if they want to re-connect. I will look into the issues surrounding compliance certificates.


Last week was the annual Master Builders Association dinner and the president John Slingsby had some harsh words about our industry: “I believe that I would win hands down should this be a contest for the gloomiest year reported at an MBA annual dinner! “Winter is here.

Having just watched the last season of Game of Thrones, I sometimes feel that being in the construction industry is like being part of this blockbuster fantasy series.

“In our industry we often feel powerless and it often seems that on a daily basis we have just been either tortured, raped, massacred, sacrificed or, finally, burnt alive by a dragon. We are surrounded by flawed heroes, the wholly evil and morally bankrupt…”

I have been saying for months that our industry is in a bad place, but I am starting to see a glimmer of hope and the corners of my mouth are twitching just a bit.

Keep your questions or comments coming to don@ or SMS only to 082 446 3859.


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