Disregard for heritage in draft SDF
Dr Andy Lamont, chairman of the George Heritage Trust:
If implemented, a range of development proposals in a municipal document will destroy the character of George. Such ill-conceived proposals should simply be scrapped.
The idea that York Street and Knysna Road should become concrete jungles runs against the values that Georgians cherish and the unique sense of place that characterises the town.
The municipality invited people to comment on a proposed new municipal spatial development framework, which is to guide future urban development. Comments had to be lodged by Wednesday 5 December.
The draft municipal plan falls short of the legal requirement that a heritage register should be in place when spatial planning is done. The George Municipality does not have a proper heritage register, that is, of buildings and structures of 60 years and older, as prescribed by the National Heritage Resources Act.
Some of the proposals blatantly disregard sites of socio-historic importance, as well as the cultural landscape.
The spatial significance of York Street and the cultural landscapes created at the entrances to the urban area deserve protection. We cannot use design guidelines which do not correspond with an approved and credible heritage inventory. Moreover a number of heritage resources and cultural landscapes have not been taken into account.
The Heritage Trust has in the past offered to assist the municipality with the compilation of a reliable heritage inventory. A current half-hearted document in the possession of the municipality is surprisingly defective. For example, it does not list the oldest building in George, the 1815 Patathuis in Mission Road, Pacaltsdorp, which is the emblem of the George Heritage Trust.
The George Municipality’s communications section responded as follows:
The Municipality has been notified by Heritage Western Cape of the requirements of Section 30 and 31 of the National Heritage Act, 1999. The draft MSDF (municipal spatial development framework) recognises the importance of protection of heritage assets to the effect that development of heritage overlay zones are proposed to define and manage the character of heritage areas.
While a heritage inventory was approved by Heritage Western Cape in 2016, it was highlighted that a more detailed register is needed, which in terms of the Act is a provincial mandate. The municipality initiated an engagement with the local George Heritage Trust in an attempt to leverage the assistance from the trust in upgrading the inventory to a register that meets with the requirements of HWC. Given prevalent budget constraints and the cost of developing such a register to the specifications of the competent authority, and the expectation that same must be funded by the municipality, the process could not be concluded.
By law the local authority must at the initiative of HWC investigate the need for the designation of heritage areas at the time of revision or compilation of a spatial plan. As part of this investigation, a focus group session was held on 2 August 2017, which was well attended by representatives of the George Heritage Trust and the Van der Stel Foundation. During this session the attendees were asked to assist the municipality in demarcating these heritage areas by means of delineation on maps that were provided. Regrettably no response was received from the participants and it was resolved to address the need for demarcation of heritage areas on a strategic level, which will become part of the implementation strategy of the MSDF, once adopted.