The swear word that is Heritage

Remember that there is a National Heritage Resources Act. It is not a Municipal by-law, but a National law…so please don’t get caught on the wrong side of it.

The Act deals with how heritage resources are to be managed, from setting up National, Provincial and Municipal heritage authorities through to requirements for approvals of development proposals. It deals with all heritage resources including archaeology, meteorites, burial grounds etc, and of course the built environment.

There are three sections in particular that will affect Architects. Below is a brief description of these sections. As this is a blog dealing briefly with this issue it is requested that you read the Act and the remainder of the three sections which have been excluded here for brevity. The Act can be found at

Section 27: National heritage sites and provincial heritage sites
If the building or area you are working in is a National (NHS) or Provincial Heritage Site (PHS) this clause pertains. In Cape Town, one way to check whether a property has either status is by going onto the City’s Map Viewer ( Roll into the base map to get to your site, go to the Layer List menu on the map and click on Themes and then Heritage. A menu will drop down with four types of searches relating to gradings and heritage protection overlays. Click on the item you need. The map will change to show your site’s status by demarcating it with a particular colour code.
Clause 18 of Section 27 says:
“No person may destroy, damage, deface, excavate, alter, remove from its original position, subdivide or change the planning status of any (provincial/national) heritage site without a permit issued by the heritage resources authority responsible for the protection of such site.”
You need to apply to Heritage Western Cape for a permit to undertake the work.

Section 34 : Structures
If the structure you are asked to work on is over 60 years old, this section pertains. Clause 1 says:
“No person may alter or demolish any structure or part of a structure which is older than 60 years without a permit issued by the relevant provincial heritage resources authority.”
This includes the inside of the building. In fact “alter” is defined in the Act as,
“any action affecting the structure, appearance or physical properties of a place or object, whether by way of structural or other works, by painting, plastering or other decoration or any other means”. “Alter” is also used in Section 27 above. So beware.

Section 38: Heritage Resources management
The section is self-explanatory:
38. (1) Subject to the provisions of subsections (7), (8) and (9), any person who intends to undertake a development categorised as:
(a) the construction of a road, wall, powerline, pipeline, canal or other similar form of linear development or barrier exceeding 300m in length;
(b) the construction of a bridge or similar structure exceeding 50 m in length;
(c) any development or other activity which will change the character of a site
(i) exceeding 5 000 m2 in extent; or
(ii) involving three or more existing erven or subdivisions thereof; or
(iii) involving three or more erven or divisions thereof which have been consolidated within the past five years; or
(iv) the costs of which will exceed a sum set in terms of regulations by SAHRA or a provincial heritage resources authority;
(d) the re-zoning of a site exceeding 10 000 m2 in extent; or
(e) any other category of development provided for in regulations by SAHRA or a provincial heritage resources authority,
must at the very earliest stages of initiating such a development, notify the responsible heritage resources authority and furnish it with details regarding the location, nature and extent of the proposed development.

Clause c) and d) are normally the clauses that affect Architects. Notification is done through the submission of a Notification of Intent to Develop or “NID” to HWC. They will either respond that the section does not apply, or that they require a heritage report, better known as a heritage impact assessment or HIA.

Please read the rest of these three clauses for the additional information. Please remember that although the project Architect may believe that they are sufficiently qualified and skilled to undertake the necessary historical research and to assign or establish the significance of a building, site or the environs, they should ensure that the applicable heritage resource authority accepts their credentials as a researcher and/or designer, or advise the Client to appoint someone with the appropriate credentials.

Figure 1 screenshot of City of Cape Town Map Viewer of 1944 – 1966 survey: area around Molteno
Reservoir. This is a benchmark around whether a structure is over 60 years old.


Figure 2 screenshot of City of Cape Town Map Viewer: grading layers on.


Figure 3 screen shot of City of Cape Town Map Viewer : grading description.