Verdict on shabby Strand Jetty: To let nature take its course

The Strand Jetty, a famous and popular local landmark, built in 1934 is now due to its’ aged and derelict condition considered to not only be aesthetically unattractive, but also regarded as a possible safety risk.

Local resident, Mr Edwin Hodkinson raised these safety concerns in a letter addressed to Bolander and published earlier this month on Wednesday 10 March. In the letter Mr Hodkinson tells of an incident he witnessed last year when children gained access to the jetty and were climbing on, and diving off the unsound and rundown structure, however, this wasn’t the worse thing he witnessed with regards to people gaining illegal access to the jetty. “I remember that somewhat two years ago a young boy drowned there, he had apparently dived in and got swept away by the undercurrent. I am hoping that action is taken to either fence the jetty off or do something to prevent access to it,” Hodkinson urged.

Bolander followed up on these concerns, enquiring from the City about clarity on plans to either safeguard this area, or long-term plans to deal with this dilapidated jetty. Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment acknowledged their awareness of the safety concerns surrounding the jetty, but revealed due to various reasons there are no restoration or demolition plans for the Strand Jetty.

According to Nieuwoudt, the jetty, due to its protection under the National Resource Heritage Act, will not be demolished, but will be allowed to naturally erode with time.

“We have discussed the future of the jetty with multiple organisations, the most important role player being the South African Heritage Resources Agency. The jetty is protected under the National Heritage Resources Act and in this regard we have agreed that we would not seek to demolish the jetty but allow it to slowly erode naturally over time,” Niewoudt explained the final outcome on the jetty’s future.

In answer to why the jetty cannot be restored, she explained the costly requirements. “Replacing the jetty aligned to the Heritage requirements are not within our budget,” she said.

The final decision taken on the future of the Strand jetty is for it to naturally erode, says the City of Cape Town.

Restricting access with more safety measures to block off complete access to the jetty is what Hodkinson is strongly campaigning for. Currently there are signage on the sea wall warning the public against accessing the jetty, but Hodkinson believes these are ineffective and requested additional ways to restrict access. “If they could possibly just put a signpost then in front of the jetty with more warning signs that may suffice,” Hodkinson suggested.

However, Niewoudt referred to the existing signage as an access deterrent and urged members of the public to adhere to the current warning signage on the sea wall. “The jetty is currently not accessible to the public and only those people that ignore the warning signs are accessing the jetty,” Niewoudt insisted. According to Hodkinson, people are still, illegal or not, gaining entry to the jetty and Bolander witnessed children accessing the jetty, jumping on and off it to swim in the sea, but apart from the warning signage, Niewoudt said taking stronger measures to ensuring the compliance therewith is an avenue the City has no resources for. She explained the City’s inability due to a lack of staff resources to have someone stationed there 24/7 to police the public’s adherence to the warning signs. “We would ask that the public especially parents of children heed the signs that the jetty is closed to the public and is not safe to climb on or jump off,” said Niewoudt.

One of the safety warning signs outside the area where the jetty is located.
The signage on the Strand sea wall warns against swimming in the area.
Even though there are these warning signs, members of the public are still blatantly ignoring and disregarding these signs. Bolander last week saw an unidentified man and a group of children walking and playing on the jetty.

Carl Punt, local ward councillor for the area, expressed grave regret in the natural erosion of the jetty, especially because of its rich, cultural history and iconic status. “It’s very sad that such a historical icon of our area is now left to erode and be taken by the sea for its next period of existence. It saddens me that the owner of the Strand Jetty do not see the socio-economical and historical value of the Strand Jetty not just for the Strand residents, but also for the whole Helderberg community who all want to see such an historical beacon in our area be revived to its former glory,” Punt said.

He highlighted the historical value of the authentic wood used in constructing this local landmark. “The Strand Jetty is constructed of Australian Jarrah wood and hold together with steel bolted constructions. The Strand jetty is one of the few remaining public timber jetties in South Africa and thus also has a rich history for Strand residents.”

According to Punt, recommendations for the demolishing of the jetty were made by the City in 2002, when it had to be closed due to storm damage and general deterioration, but there was a great public opposition about this proposal. “A public outcry prevented the demolishment of the Strand Jetty and a variety of groups and the City of Cape Town looked at options to restore the jetty. After all the options to restore Strand jetty were considered, it was too costly for all interested groups and the City of Cape Town.”

The jetty’s aging wood makes it unstable. A part of the jetty’s front were also cut off with the construction of the new seawall and the rest of the jetty is decaying, already collapsing in some parts.

In conclusion the jetty will remain in its current state and natural erosion will take its course. In an effort to minimise the safety risks associated with loose debris breaking off from the crumbling jetty, Niewoudt explained the City’s ongoing plans of assessment. “We do twice annually assess the jetty and remove any components that we consider are additional or a new risk,” she said.

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