What is Built Environment?

The construct, Built Environment or Built Heritage, as derived from the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA), no 25 of 1999, is defined as heritage resources which are of cultural significance or have other special values for the present community or future generations. The Built Environment, at a more general level refers to ‘place’, which may be a site, area or region. The definition of ‘place’ in Section 2 (xxxii) of the above Act, includes buildings, structures, equipment (related to buildings and sites), places to which oral traditions are attached, places associated with living heritage, historical settlements, townscapes, landscapes, natural features, geological sites of scientific importance that embody cultural significance.

Significance of the Built Environment

In defining significance Section 3 (3) of the NHRA, no 25 of 1999, identifies a range of criteria for assessing the value or significance of places. The significance of a place is defined by the value it adds to the pattern of South Africa’s history. Places and their components are measured by the degree to which they possess or define uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of South Africa’s natural or cultural heritage.

In addition, they must have the potential of yielding information that will further contribute to our understanding of our cultural heritage. Particular aesthetics, strong or special associations with particular communities or cultural groups for social, cultural or spiritual reasons, or with the life or work of persons or groups or organisations of importance in the history and the history of slavery in South Africa are all factors that define significance and determine what ultimately constitutes the National Estate.

National Heritage Sites (NHS)

In conclusion, The South African Heritage Resources Agency, (SAHRA) must identify those places with qualities so exceptional that they are of special national significance in terms of heritage assessment criteria as briefly explained above and declare them as National Heritage Sites. Once a site is declared a NHS no person may destroy, damage, deface, excavate, alter, remove from its original position, subdivide or change the planning status of such a site without a permit issued by SAHRA.