Amafa tackles KZN Catholics

THE Catholic Church and KwaZulu-Natal heritage authority, Amafa, look set for a major showdown over a 130-year-old building in the city of Durban.

The Amafa council last week called for objections to the proposal to demolish the Denis Hurley Centre in Durban's city centre next to the equally historic Emmanuel Cathedral.

"We are reviewing this because of concerns about the centre's historic, cultural and political significance in the Grey Street precinct. This is why we are calling for public comments," Ros Devereux, head of Amafa's built environment unit, said.

Devereux said all buildings older than 60 years in KwaZulu-Natal, however small or humble, needed written permission from Amafa for any alterations or demolition.

With buildings of significance, like this one, the heritage watchdog is required by law to seek public input, particularly among affected communities, Devereux said.

But the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, argued that the reasons for wanting to demolish the centre were valid.

"The cost of restoration and renovation would be considerably higher than the construction of an entirely new building (and) the parish centre is of limited architectural value according to architectural experts we have consulted," Paddy Kearney, the coordinator of the Denis Hurley Centre Project, said.

"(We have) spent more than R20 million in restoring the cathedral and adjacent priest's house - these are testimony to our concern for buildings of high architectural merit," he said.

But Amafa see it differently and want the 1907 building to be retained.