Making changes to your house: the dos and don’ts
Town planner Gemey Abrahams holds ERA’s planning and heritage portfolio. She explains the importance of following the correct procedures and the steps to follow.
Emmarentia is a dynamic, changing suburb. Walk down any road and you are most likely to see building materials on the sidewalks or building works taking place.
ERA has a building, town planning and heritage portfolio that assists all residents with information on these topics. ERA also acts on behalf of the original township owner, Lourens Geldenhuys, and his successors in title.
All our title deeds have conditions in them that require permission from the original township owner, the Lourens Geldenhuys Family, before you submit plans to the City Council for building plans or alterations approval.
This may seem an outdated requirement (as many conditions are) but it does allow us all to have better protection as ERA requests that neighbours see the plans (not approve them) as a common neighbourly courtesy. In other suburbs, without this clause, the first time you will know that your neighbour is building is when the brick truck arrives!
It also helps to ensure that building work does not begin before plan approval. We urge all residents to uphold the law, even for what they may think are small, internal renovations. It is even better to call ERA before you employ a professional to draught your plans and get advice.
Other title deed conditions relate to roofing materials, position of outbuildings and building lines. Consent for these must also be first obtained from ERA. Without ERA’s endorsement the City building department will not approve your plans and will send them back to you, wasting further time and causing you further frustration. So please always bring any plans and title deeds to ERA first before submitting to the City for approval.
Most properties in Emmarentia were built after WWII and into the 1950s, making them over 60 years’ old. We are proud of this early heritage and some of the old homes are beautiful and contribute to the charm and appeal of Emmarentia as a desirable suburb to live in.
According to Section 34 of the National Heritages Resources Act, No 25 of 1999, any house over 60 years requires an application to the Provincial Heritage Authority to obtain permission to change a structure.
In Emmarentia we must make the application to the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency of Gauteng (PHRA-G). For PHRAG to approve your application, you need to submit a short historical report on your house, the original plans and any others over the years, photographs and note what the impact of the renovation will be on the heritage of the house.
You must also submit your building plans that have been endorsed by ERA. This application must be accompanied by a letter from ERA. We provide this letter after obtaining all the relevant information in your PHRAG application, we undertake a site visit and we do an assessment and make a recommendation regarding heritage approval.
ERA would like to see as many of the original features of your house (inside and outside) being retained in some form, so we urge owners to work sensitively with the old house and blend it with the new. Johannesburg is losing so many of its original buildings and the thread of history will be broken, leaving little for our children and their children to wonder at if our generation does not try to conserve our past.
The PHRA-G will then assess your application and if successful, stamp your plans as approved. This PHRA-G stamp is important because the City of Johannesburg will not approve your building plans without this stamp nor without the Lourens Geldenhuys/ERA title deed endorsement on the plans. It is therefore imperative that we all work together when renovating your home.
We are grateful to all residents who follow these procedures. Find a summary here: https://era.org.za/building-and-renovations/