City wants to clamp down on illegal churches

The City of Joburg has warned churches that occupy land or buildings illegally that the municipality will take legal action against them.

This follows a recent visit by Mayor Herman Mashaba to Yeoville, Highlands North and surrounding areas where various structures were identified as ‘illegal’ churches.

The issue of a church in Highlands North zoned as Residential 4 (the property can only be used as a residential building or dwelling unit) received attention.

Poppy Louw, Stakeholder Relations Officer in the office of the MMC for development planning office said the church is not illegal. “However, if the owners want to use the property as a place of worship, they need to submit a consent application. The property has already been transferred to Revelation Church of God Investments Pty Ltd on 19 October 2016,” said Louw.

The church building is situated close to Westminster Mansions which is regarded as a heritage site. Louw said the proposed development, place of worship by the church, would impact on the Westminster Mansions heritage building. “This would need to be considered in the Heritage Impact Assessment,” she said.

According to the City, the owners will have to prepare an application for the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (PHRA). Tanya Heydenrych from Mashaba’s office said public consultation with interested and affected parties will need to be part of the process.

As the custodian of land use rights, Heydenrych said the City has the duty to enforce the town planning scheme within its jurisdictions. She said in cases where a property is used contrary to its zoning, the City will take legal action against the owner of the property. Failure to comply, the matter will be referred to the sheriff for enforcement of a court order.

The City enforces the law without favour or focus on specific land uses, however, the illegality of the use is what takes precedence, and not what kind of illegality it is, Heydenrych explained.


Read: Executive mayors address service delivery issues in Houghton

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