South Africa is a country rich in heritage resources that deserve special protection to ensure their preservation for future generations of South Africans.
The National Heritage Resources Act was enacted in 1999 to give effect to the need for the country’s heritage resources to be protected and preserved.
Section 45 of The Act is a powerful tool that empowers a heritage authority to issue mandatory repair orders to ensure the preservation of our heritage sites under certain circumstances, these are where a heritage site has fallen into disrepair to such an extent that the state of the site:
· renders the site susceptible to destruction or demolition.
· renders it susceptible to development.
· renders the adjacent land susceptible to development.
· the site susceptible to the loss of its potential for conservation.
Should a mandatory repair order issued in terms of Section 45 of the National Heritage Resources Act not be complied with, the relevant heritage authority (E.g., Heritage Western Cape or the South African Heritage Resources Agency) may appoint a contractor to conduct the necessary preservation work and subsequently claim this cost back from the owner of the property.
It must, however, be emphasised that only the necessary work required for the preservation of the heritage site may be claimed back by the relevant heritage authority.
Section 45 of the National Heritage Resources Act is a powerful tool that may be used to protect the country’s rich heritage from degradation and potential loss.
Another mechanism that may be employed for the preservation of Heritage Buildings is the City of Cape Town’s Problem Property By-Law. First enacted in 2010, the by-law allows the City of Cape Town to undertake certain limited repair and securing works on all buildings (not just heritage buildings) to ensure that they are kept secure against vandalism and theft.
In terms of the by-law the City of Cape Town once it receives a report, investigates the property and if any contravention of the property is found to be present, the owner of the property is issued with a compliance notice and given a time period to comply with the notice.
A building may be deemed to be a problem property if it:
· Is abandoned or derelict in appearance;
· Is unlawfully occupied or is overcrowded;
· Is currently or is becoming unhealthy, unsanitary, unsightly, dilapidated, or otherwise objectionable;
· Is illegally connected to the electricity supply or the City’s sewer system;
· Has been altered without an approved building plan to prevent inspection by the South African Police, the City Police, its inspection authorities, and its authorised officials from entering the property lawfully without notice with the intention of frustrating the purpose of any investigation;
· Is structurally unsound or is becoming dangerous to life or to property;
· Is being used to dump or accumulate waste material; or
· Is under construction where the construction work has stalled for more than 3 months.
Should the owner not comply with the notice the City of Cape Town may proceed to undertake the necessary work and claim the cost thereof back from the owner of the property. This is a similar mechanism to the one described above.
The ambit of the City of Cape Town’s Problem Property By-law is broader than that of the National Heritage Resources Act since the Problem Property By-Law applies to all properties and not just Heritage Sites.
Sources: National Heritage Resources Act, 25 of 1999
City of Cape Town Problem Properties By-Law 2019
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