Proposal to replace beach huts due to neglect

St James Beach Bathing boxes.

The iconic timber beach huts at St James and Muizenberg beaches could be replaced with ones made out of fibre cement, a sub-council meeting heard.

The neglect of the Muizenberg and St James beach huts was raised by Tony Trimmel, of the Kalk Bay and St James Special Rating Area, in the Sub-council 19 meeting.

He said the prominent City assets and valued public amenities had long been iconic attractions and frequently appeared in photographs promoting the city to local and foreign tourists and visitors, but it looked like the City no longer looked after them.

“These assets were steadily falling into serious disrepair and have become a place of refuge for criminals and the homeless due to the City’s failure to provide adequate security,” he said.

Adding to the problem was an apparent lack of any City policy or budget for the care of the huts.

He asked the City to clarify its future plans for the huts.

Dave Curran, head of Recreation and Parks, tabled photographs of repairs to the Muizenberg beach huts.

According to him, the City got an R800 000 quote a few months ago to repair the huts, but the department instead opted to do the repairs, painting and cleaning using internal resources at a cost, excluding labour, of R110 000.

The department had tried previously to remove the huts on the eastern section of Muizenberg Beach because of anti-social
behaviour, but Western Cape Heritage had blocked that, citing the huts’ iconic status, Mr Curran said.

The St James beach huts were very old and frequently vandalised, he said. Their outsides were painted by Recreation and Parks staff, the insides by someone
hired by the Kalk Bay Ratepayers’ Association. “There was security but not after hours. The biggest problem that the department was faced with was vandalism.
“The doors have been removed to prevent unsavoury activities.”

While the City would retain the huts at both beaches, there was no specific maintenance budget for them and repairs were done when needed, he said.

Councillor Aimee Kuhl said
her constituents felt strongly about the huts’ historic and
tourism value, and she felt it was necessary to discuss getting them their own maintenance budget as well as a capital project to re-instate them and rethink the material used.

Mr Curran agreed and said the Nutec material (fibre cement) used by the Shark Spotters hut on Fish Hoek Beach would be ideal as it did not “rot” easily.

“The coastal conditions are severe and timber is not the greatest material to use,” he said.

Mr Curran said the St James beach huts were used more often than the Muizenberg ones.

City of Cape Town cleansing staff cleaned the huts at St James every morning.

It was resolved that Ms Kuhl would meet with the relevant Recreation and Parks officials to discuss how best to retain and look after the Muizenberg and St James beach huts.

* Fish Hoek Beach also has a handfulofhuts,although these were not discussed at the
meeting.