(Sub-Committee Chair: Claus Schutte/Linda Tyrrell/Anton van Vollenhoven)
Arcadia, and the area above Stanza Bopape Street, is the oldest precinct in Pretoria. With the declaration of the Union Buildings as a national heritage site in 2013, it is critical to ensure that the surrounding heritage precinct is protected from unplanned and unsympathetic development and is respectfully preserved for future generations to enjoy. The Union Buildings precinct stretches from Stanza Bopape Street North to Meintjieskop and East from the Union Buildings along Government Avenue to the Bryntirion Estate. The area between, which is predominantly zoned residential and/or diplomatic, is a critical area that requires special attention in terms of its discernible and definable area and its evident heritage legacy. This is also critical in terms of preserving the catchment area around Union Buildings in order to align with the vision of the ‘ Union Buildings Conservation Management Plan’ and the prospects for securing UNESCO World Heritage Site status. On the heritage front, UNESCO has identified the Union Buildings as a proposed World Heritage Site listing. Since a consultative meeting which was held on 14 January 2020, no further information in this regard was received.
The Tshwane Regional Spatial Development Framework (RSDF) for future planning and rezoning and consent-use applications recognises this aspect when it states: That in terms of the cultural heritage of the city, certain areas are identified as unique areas, including the Union Buildings Precinct, Church Square, Marabastad, Bryntirion/Lisdogan Park, Eastwood… This implies that there is a mandate to protect and preserve this special area of Arcadia in Pretoria. This should strengthen our hand, in all the matters of concern about maintenance of the Union Buildings and the Presidential Precinct and Arcadia North of Stanza Bopape Street.
In 2020, unfortunately as a community, the many flagrant breaches and challenges to preserving this important heritage in our area continued. The Provincial Heritage Resources Authority-Gauteng (PHRA-G) is merely handling official applications for demolition or Heritage Impact Assessments, but when it comes to complaints about the breaches of the law, they are hardly functional. Currently the appointment of a new Council is awaited. This also pertains to the support we get from the Heritage Section of the CoT. ‘Stop Orders’ issued by PHRA-G to suspend/terminate work on Heritage properties without permits are ignored by the owners and no further enforcement action was taken by the authorities. Reports of damage to heritage properties and sites is ignored and the damage continues unabated. If this lack of action continues, then there is a serious threat to the tourism interests in the area.
No feedback has been given to ARRA as to why the demolition of the unique and irreplaceable Glass Houses on the Union Buildings precinct could happen. The ‘restoration’ of the Vredehuis, also on the Union Buildings precinct, was stopped by the SAHRA1 after ARRA contacted SAHRA regarding the damage that was being done to the historic building (in terms of removal of original roof tiles and adjustment of the profile of the roof). Unfortunately, often the PRAH-G and SAHRA do not act speedily enough and end-up handwringing with excuses of shortage of resources and money. We need to be able to influence these bodies so that these
dreadful detrimental decisions that affect our heritage are not taken without proper consultations with the heritage experts that exist amongst ARRA members and the members of OPERRA.
One of the best ways to ensure the preservation of our surroundings is to have it officially declared as a heritage area. This however, will need the buy-in from homeowners and other residents. It should also be possible to have specific buildings declared as important heritage legacy assets.