WORDS: ANNE SCHAUFFER IMAGES: NADINE VAN DRIEL & SHUTTERSTOCK

Additions, alterations and demolition of heritage homes are strictly controlled by the National Heritage Resources Act (No 25 of 1999). Closely aligned, are provincial and municipal regulations, all of which dictate specific requirements.

In KwaZulu-Natal – which we use as reference here – a new provincial act (KwaZulu-Natal Amafa and Research Institute Act No 5 of 2018) came into being in December last year after the heritage unit amalgamated with Amafa/ Heritage KZN. “But,” says Ros Devereux, head: built environment section, KZN Amafa and Research Institute, “it does not fundamentally change the position regarding protection of all buildings or protected structures over 60 years of age.”

What does the KZN Act protect?

Apart from provisions that allow for proclamation and listing of individual buildings, it also allows for the protection of groups of buildings forming a conservation area or a protected area. Among other protections, the Act refers to general protections. Section 37 refers to General Protection: Structures: “No structure which is, or which may reasonably be expected to be, older than 60 years, may be demolished, altered or added to without the prior written approval of the Institute having been obtained on written application to the Institute.”

Evaluation of conservation worthiness

There’s a substantial list under a number of categories, such as those under Architectural Significance: Intrinsic Design Quality; Building Type; Period; Details; Technology; and Association with a prominent architect/builder.

Criteria for approval of applications

The reviewers look at details as well as overall principles. They’re likely to approve applications that are sensitive to the conservation of the built environment and that involve the least intervention possible and the most necessary to sustain the continued use of the building.

Heritage homes

Out of form are:

  1. Alterations to roofs
  2. Enclosure of verandas
  3. Replacement of wooden veranda posts with brick or precast concrete columns
  4. Plastering and/or painting of stone or facebrick
  5. Replacing lime plaster with cement plaster
  6. Replacing windows and doors with those that don’t match the existing in proportion and materials, like steel or aluminium casements to replace wooden sliding sashes, or sliding doors to replace French doors
  7. Full or partial replacement of timber floors with concrete slabs on fill that would affect under-floor ventilation, blocking of air vents under timber floors, the removal of encaustic/traditional ceramic tiles and their replacement with modern ceramic or Italian tiles, etc.
  8. The use of unconventional and untested products that can cause damage to sensitive material if not properly tested under all conditions over the long term
  9. The inappropriate and overuse of mock-heritage products, like “broekie lace” which is not appropriate to a Union period (1910 to 1960) building
  10. Over restoration – the least intervention is the most desirable

Flouting the law

There have been numerous contentious incidences where laws pertaining to what you’re allowed to do with heritage buildings have been ignored or circumvented. The law is clear on demolition permits. “In most cases, the reviewers will err on the side of conservation and cannot be expected to grant demolition permits simply because the owner has neglected the building or has purchased a neglected building. The municipal bylaws require that owners maintain their properties.”

Compliance

To control the above, the Institute has established a built environment section to handle all matters pertaining to the conservation of the built environment. There are different application forms, and requirements need to be met.

Heritage homes