The Namibian (Windhoek)

4 December 2012

Namibia: Developers Flout Swakop Conservation Area Rules

THE Swakopmund Aesthetics Committee is concerned about changes being made to buildings in the town’s conservation area without approval from the committee or the National Heritage Council (NHC).

The committee has a list of buildings inside the conservation area on which unapproved alterations have been, or are being, done.

The Swakopmund town council’s management committee says it is a pity that developers are ignoring the committee, whose members volunteer their services “because they care about what is happening to the town, which has always been a quaint coastal town with a very strong architectural character”.

“All these efforts by everyone involved seem, however, to be turning out to be fruitless, as the decisions that are taken by the committee carry no consequences to the citizens and as a result the committee is being ignored, especially by the main developers who make every effort to find legal or other reasons why the aesthetics committee is irrelevant,” the management committee is quoted in an official document.

In an effort to redeem the situation, the aesthetics committee sent a letter to all property owners in the conservation area to inform them of the specific conditions and guidelines as recommended by the aesthetics committee.

“The letter was not a threat, but rather an attempt to educate the owners of our aesthetics standard,” Swakopmund CEO Eckart Demasius said.

The response was positive and owners, many of whom were apparently not aware of the conditions, showed a willingness to cooperate.

Those who have compromised the aesthetics guidelines were also informed and directed to fix the problems – after the proposed changes were approved. Those who refuse to cooperate will be investigated by the NHC and could expect sanctioning, according to Demasius.

The secretary of the aesthetics committee, Annelize Swart, said that no one at council or municipal level was allowing the alterations to pass without approval.

“It’s the onus of the owner. If the owner does not even apply for approval, we will only see the alterations once it has been made; and then the damage has been done,” she said.

According to her, the impression is there that the aesthetics committee wants to make life difficult for the developer or owner, and this they do by delaying the approval process.

“This is not true. In fact, it is a fast process. It will only take a maximum of three days for approval or advice. We want to help because it is our town.”

The objective of the committee is to protect the existing character of the town. Factors considered by the committee are appropriate visual setting such as bulk, form, scale, height, character, colour, texture and materials.

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