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KOUGA homeowners have been granted a further six months to apply for amnesty from fines and penalties payable for incomplete or incorrect building plans.

The extension was approved by the Kouga Council at a virtual meeting on Friday, May 28 after taking into consideration the effect the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown had on the submission of plans and other operations.

Kouga Planning and Development Portfolio Chairman, Alderman Ben Rheeder, said the amnesty period had originally been approved for the period January 2019 to June 2020, after which it had been extended for another year from June 2020 to June 2021.

“The resolution will take the closing date for applications until December 2021 and follows on numerous requests from industry professionals and residents for an extension,” he said.

According to Rheeder, close to R1 021 000 in fines and penalties had been waived since the start of the amnesty period in January 2019.

“The waiver of penalties would not have a negative effect on the income stream of the municipality due to the new number of applications received and the adjustment of the value of the property to counter the loss in the long term,” he said.

Rheeder said the purpose of the amnesty period was to give homeowners the opportunity to ensure their properties complied with the National Building Regulations.

“The non-compliance is not always the fault of the current property owner, hence Council’s decision to declare and extend the amnesty period,” he explained. “In some instances, previous owners built, extended or altered their properties without building plans having been submitted or approved.

“There are various reasons for this, including architects and draughtsman not always returning building plans to the municipality for final approval.

“There are also properties that are in use despite not having occupation certificates as the final building inspections were never concluded.”

Rheeder said property owners in this position would typically be fined in terms of the National Building Regulations and municipal standard application fees. “It is these fines and penalties that will be waived during the amnesty period. The normal application approval fees will, however, still be applicable and payable.

“We would also like to emphasise that the amnesty period must not be construed as a relaxation of any standards, regulations or legislation. It is simply an attempt to legalise illegal structures within the municipal area in accordance with the relevant legislation.

“Building plans must still comply with all relevant regulations, both national and municipal.”

Rheeder cautioned that building plans for unuathorised structures submitted through this process would also be subject to inspections by the municipality’s Building Control section. Any structures that do not comply with the required standards will not be approved until such a time as the necessary corrections have been done.

“Each case will be dealt with on merit and the municipality remains the final decision-maker,” he said.

All submissions for exemptions must be put in writing and emailed to the Department of Planning and Development at nlappert@kouga.gov.za or jmarais@kouga.gov.za.