Twenty-one beachfront property owners in Shelly Beach on the South Coast have been slapped with warning notices by environmental inspectors as part of a national clampdown on illegal development.

Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Zolile Nqayi said yesterday that 21 legal notices were served at the weekend, and all were issued to private property owners over fences which extended their properties into the Admiralty Reserve, which was public property.

A further seven notices could not be served because the owners were unavailable.

Nqayi said the 21 beachfront property owners had all been issued with pre-compliance notices which gave them 14 days to convince the department that a compliance notice should not be issued to them.

Should they not respond in that time, a compliance notice would be served, instructing the property owners to remove fences and any other structures which were illegal.

Defiant property owners would find themselves in trouble with the police.

“Should they not comply with our instructions and the set time frames, we open (police) case dockets for failure to comply with compliance notices.

Also, section 61 of the Integrated Coastal Management Act allows us to remove structures and claim expenses from the owner,” Nqayi said.

The act makes it an offence to conduct any development within 100m of the high water mark in urban areas unless this has been authorised by the national Department of Environmental Affairs.

In rural areas, no unauthorised development is allowed within 1km of the high water mark.

Nqayi said that at one property the occupants were home, but ignored the inspectors at their door.

Eventually access was gained to the property via a neighbour’s property and photographs were taken of the backyard.

As well as fenced-off private gardens within the Admiralty Reserve, illegal developments also included unauthorised homes and cottages, and alien plants.

The department would undertake similar clampdowns elsewhere in KwaZulu-Natal and along other parts of the country’s coastline. This picture by Estienne Janse van Rensburg was among the winning entries in last year’s iSimangaliso Sodwana Bay Shootout festival.