To Premier Helen Zille,
I refer to correspondence between yourself and Anne Nurock where the Heritage Association of SA (HASA) and specifically the Drakenstein Heritage Foundation (DHF) are quoted. I am the current chairman of HASA and the immediate past chairman of the DHF as well as the signature to the letters quoted.
While I do not want to intercede in the processes underway, I feel the need to communicate the concern of the bodies that I represent in respect of the direction that Heritage Western Cape is taking. It is a common belief in the heritage conservation community that Heritage Western Cape is neglecting its primary responsibility as set out in the Heritage Act , in the Provincial Gazette as well as in its own annual report viz. that of promoting and protecting our Heritage. Instead, it strives for administrative efficiency at the cost of our heritage as well as the rights of the conservation community as guaranteed by the various Acts.
I do not want to overload you with detailed complaints but would request your assistance in ensuring that we obtain an urgent interview with the new Minister before he goes on sick leave to consider the following principle areas of concern.
1) The fact that, in its Appeals committees (including the Minister’s Appeal committee) there is no representation of conservation bodies or conservation orientated persons or owners of heritage properties. We would like to establish, in agreement with the Minister, a rotating panel to serve on these appeal committees. This is motivated by the commonly held belief that the tribunals are not truly independent but are handpicked to support HWC ‘s decisions.
2) The make-up of the council of HWC and its committees are dominated by persons who either have, or will be, submitting plans or whose associates and business partners regularly submit applications to HWC. We believe that, either deliberately or subconsciously, their private interests are best served by lowering the standards of protection of heritage applied to applications. In our opinion, this could be controlled by ensuring that conservation bodies are represented in the decision making process of the committees that directly decide these issues and thus set the standards
3) The failure of HWC to consult with the Heritage community in setting the standards for grading and thus protection. This is
represented in the differing opinions of the city council’s department and HWC.
4) The hurdles placed in the way of registration of conservation bodies, the problems with notifications and comments as well as the failure of HWC to ensure a substantially fair process of notifications to ensure that the conservation bodies have their right of appeal .
This aspect is highlighted by HWC advertising that it was closed, closing its front desk but insisting that the appeal periods run during their closure. This is counter to the general policy of the Western Cape’s other departments
I would like to make a call to you to ensure that the new minister suspends all Appeal hearings until a truly independent panel from which the Appeals committees must be selected can be agreed with the registered conservation bodies.
Thank you for your interest in our heritage