Durban - Thousands of home and business owners in Durban and the rest of KwaZulu-Natal are about to be hit with new levels of expense, delay and red tape when renovating or altering any building built before 1952.
Provincial heritage agency Amafa announced on Wednesday that all applications to alter or demolish listed buildings, including all buildings more than 60-years-old, would be subject to new approval procedures, including the need to advertise in the KZN Government Gazette and to allow for a new 30-day period for objections.
Amafa said in a statement that, until now, the statutory heritage council review committees had decided on a case-by-case basis whether there was a need for public participation.
“However, legal advice we have received is that the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act requires the new procedure.”
This meant that all applications for alteration or demolition were likely to be delayed for another two to three weeks, because of the need to bring the permit-issuing process in KZN into line with practice in the other provinces and at national level.
Although the council allowed for a 90-day processing period, most applications were currently dealt with in about two weeks. This period was now likely to stretch to about four to five weeks.
Ros Deveraux, head of Amafa’s built-environment section, told The Mercury that the council was still trying to establish whether application fees would need to rise to cover the cost of advertising in the provincial gazette.
Applicants would also have to bear the cost of getting permission from neighbours or sending registered letters to neighbours.
“Depending on where you live, you may have to send out letters to at least eight neighbours – and possibly up to 40 neighbours if they are within a 100m radius.”
This applied to all immediate neighbours, including corner neighbours and homes on the opposite side of the street. With each registered letter costing around R15, the new provisions could push up costs considerably.
“Some of the applications we receive are for quite minor alterations. But we have just had this thing thrown at us and we are trying to work out whether we can dispense with some of the new provisions.”
Architects in Durban have raised concerns that the new process would further delay applications and frustrate clients. Haroon Mahomed, from Signature Architectural Studio, said that the process would burden a client financially and add considerable delay, with applications to Amafa already taking about a month to process.
He said areas such as Westville, Reservoir Hills, Durban North and Berea had many houses that were more than 50 and 60 years old.
“In five to 10 years, 80 percent of the houses will fall under this rule.”
He added that many of the houses did not hold any architectural merit or value, and the process would be a waste of time.
He also said that the process of sending registered mail was a further financial burden on clients, especially in densely populated areas. “This also means that we have to find the information, get post box numbers and deliver the mail, and one objection from a neighbour could throw the application back to the start.”
Leon Barnard of Consult Design said that while there would be delays and financial consequences, the process was beneficial in highlighting which buildings needed protection. He said people needed to understand why the process was needed.
“In Cape Town, for example, such a process has worked, where structures of value are protected, and modern buildings are erected behind, without hurting the valued property.”
Asked whether the council was concerned that homeowners would simply ignore the new procedures, Deveraux cautioned that offenders faced hefty fines if they were caught.
Heritage legislation provided for a maximum jail term of up to five years for the most serious offenders.
She noted that home owners also faced rectification fees of R3 000 if they tried to sell their listed or protected homes, if alterations came to light that did not match plans held on file by municipalities. - The Mercury