A prominent professor will have to tear down his R6-million seaside mansion in the picturesque town of Kenton-on-Sea within six months. After an epic, nine-year battle the Grahamstown High Court has finally ordered tax expert and Rhodes University professor Matthew Lester to demolish his four-bedroom, triple-storey home.
The dome-shaped mansion, according to court papers, contravenes building regulations and obstructs the priceless ocean view of Lester's wealthy neighbour, James Haslam, 70.
The semi-retired engineering executive is famous for patenting the dual-flush toilet.
Lester said he had already splashed out more than R1-million in legal fees and was turning to the Supreme Court of Appeal to have the ruling set aside. He said it would cost him R8-million to demolish and rebuild his home.
"I'm shattered ... this is my family home ... but it's not over yet," he said.
He said he could not afford to just build another house. "I have no option but to try again [in the courts] or lose everything. The stark reality of the judgment, if I accept it, is that I will have to sell the house, my furniture, for whatever I can get, which won't be much. So, I don't have much option but to appeal."
Lester said he had tried to settle the matter with his neighbour and the municipality.
"I offered to reduce the height of the house by knocking down the top floor and building a flat-roofed structure ... that would have restored most of Haslam's view."
Lester said he had poured most of his "spare earnings for the last 10 years" into the case. He said: "It's just been legal fees and more legal fees."
Haslam said he was pleased by the judgment, saying: "I've had my day in court.''
Lester's legal woes began nine years ago when Haslam and the Ndlambe Municipality asked the court to grant a demolition order.
Lester challenged the order, insisting that the authority had initially approved his building plans but later tried to enforce a new set of regulations, including a height restriction of 7.5m.
Judge Sytze Alkema's 53-page judgment found Lester had not personally broken the law - but his property was unlawful on grounds of public, administrative and privacy law.
Judge Alkema also added that although demolishing and building a new house could cost Lester millions, it did not appear as though the professor could not afford the costs.
"[Lester] does not say he cannot afford it. He does not say that this course will leave him and his family destitute ... although a demolition order will cause financial prejudice, hardship and inconvenience, I do not get the impression that it will ruin him financially." - Tinleslive