Greyton Heritage Overlay

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The Overlay is a concept of the modern urban planning structures that was introduced as an integral part of the new Local Authority schema which supported the implementation of the New Constitution after 1996. It allows a Municipality to ‘ring-fence’ a particular area, so it can apply more or less restrictive policies and parameters to urban development in these designated areas. There are various types of Overlays – nature conservation overlays, scenic drive overlays, local area overlays (to deal with dire localised socio-economic issues) and many others.
Greyton is promulgating a Heritage Aesthetic Protection Overlay Zone (HAPOZ) to conserve its fragile heritage urban fabric, pristine streetscapes and humble vernacular architecture.


Unique Historical Roots


Greyton has a rich heritage in the context of the development of the Cape and the Overberg in particular – which is intrinsically tied to that of its sister-village Genadendal. When the slaves were emancipated in the Cape, Genadendal’s population exploded from 1,500 to nearly 3,000 in three years, and then doubled again. This created severe social strains within the settlement that was the earliest and largest Mission Station in the Cape. The “inwoners” clamoured for self-determination and especially for land – leading to a rebellion in 1850. The insurrection culminated in a petition being served on the local magistrate, which was escalated into a commission of enquiry by the Legislature – the Upper House of the newly-formed Cape Parliament. Henry Vigne, elder brother of Herbert, the founder of Greyton, who was elected to the Legislature largely on the votes of the marginalised coloured “inwoners”, faithfully represented their interests in the Legislature.


Sir George Grey, the new Governor of the Cape, who was connected to the Vignes by marriage, shared their “Philanthropist” values and ideals. The Philanthropists were a London-based British Imperial movement who believed that once slaves had been given their freedom, they should be given both a franchise and some land – to build a proper Christian way of life. Sir George Grey had pioneered this social engineering scheme at Wairarapa in New Zealand. There, he had bought land cheaply from the Maoris and sold it to the Small Farmer’s Association, led by Joseph Masters. This had given rise to the hamlets of Masterton and Greytown respectively – which reflect the self-same agricultural and humble pastural townscape, layout and roots as Greyton.


Within a month of his arrival at the Cape made the long “schoff” to Genadendal, where he replicated these ideals through the influence of his in-laws. Herbert, the younger Vigne, who was less successful and diligent, effectively abandoned farming his farm “Weltevreden” and instead had the surveyor J G Reitz lay out a series of irrigated, long, thin, erven for emerging farmers. In two short days on 27th and 28th December 1854, he sold 165 of the 400 erven on open auction – and the Village of Greyton was given its auspicious birth. For the next 120 years, humble white and coloured emergent farmers worked their morgen of land side-by-side in harmonious peace.


Distinctive, Pristine Urban Townscape


Herbert Vigne had followed ideals of English villages with which he was familiar, in helping Grey
to lay down roots for the new British order in the Overberg. Quite unlike other towns, which have wide streets, so that a team of oxen can be turned, the lanes of Greyton are very narrow, lined by majestic Oaks and flanked by “leiwater” rills – for irrigating each of the long, thin smallholdings.


As was the Dutch custom in the early Cape, the houses “toed the building line”, right against the narrow lanes – which not only allowed the farmers to best work their plots – but also created the special dynamic of Village life, which, like the “leiwater”, still flows to this day.


Most of these emergent farmers who had bought their lots for between £5 - £10 apiece had limited means, so they built humble cottages in the vernacular “Kaapse Langhuise” tradition. The walls were thick adobe dried mud-bricks, set on a shallow plinth of packed quartzite rocks to prevent damp from creeping up the walls. Most of the roofs were steep-double-pitched thatch, which was available in abundance locally, set on rough poles harvested from the forests at the base of the mountains. Floors were hard-pack dung and clay, mixed with straw. Small windows typically book-ended the central stable door. An “abbatjie” chimney graced one gable of the cottage, being the centrepiece of the kitchen-cum-living room. The proportions were humble – a span no wider than
6 m and generally they were no longer than 12 – 15 m, on plots that were 18 – 22 m wide.


Largely because it was so isolated at the end of the “road to nowhere”, and was ‘worked’ as a small-scale agricultural farming-lot for so long, Greyton has remained unchanged. These small farmers were unable to compete with commercial farming practices after WW II, with the advent of mechanisation and fertilisers. The Village went into a protracted period of decline, as one-by-one the small farmers abandoned their lots and migrated to the cities in search of work. Greyton’s population halved from the 1920’s to the 1970’s when the next critical chapter was etched.


Group Areas Act Brings Greyton to its knees


In the middle of this decline caused by fundamentally contrary economic conditions, the Apartheid regime saw fit to impose their racist ideology on a community that was living in harmony. Most the Coloured emergent farmers were dispossessed of their land and removed to the newly-proclaimed location of Heuwelkroon, on the arid hills overlooking the Village, adjacent to Boschmanskloof. Many had already given up farming, but this precipitated the decline. Surviving residents describe in graphic detail the despondent ‘ghost town’ atmosphere of the place during those harsh years.


Injection of New Life and New Residents


Two factors contributed to the resurrection of the Village: the R 406 road to Genadendal and Greyton was tarred and a predominantly English-speaking artist and retired community discovered this sleepy bucolic hamlet at the base of the Sonderend mountains, on the banks of the Gobos.


The so-called ‘gentrification’ of the Village began in earnest, which saw the population of mostly self-supporting villagers treble in the next two decades. Fortunately, the town fathers realised that they had stumbled upon a quite special, pristine environment – which needed to be preserved lest development should despoil the characteristics that had made it so attractive in the first place.


A number of NGO’s emerged – the Conservation Society, the Residents & Ratepayer’s Association, Tourism Association, Red Cross, Animal Welfare and Transition Town, among others,  leading the way. Early on, the Aesthetics Advisory Committee was modelled on the structure of the Leiwater Committee, that helped the Municipality control building operations and manage the allocation and distribution of “leiwater buurte” respectively.


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Evolution of the Overlay Development Parameters


As early as 1927 there is evidence of the Municipality controlling architectural aesthetics and planning submissions, where the minutes of a Council meeting reflect that approval would only be granted for a new dwelling provided that it was erected within the required setback from the road.


The erstwhile Greyton Municipality had an Aesthetic Committee that implemented and policed the Greyton Aesthetic Guidelines for many decades. As indicated in the introduction, with the revision of the scope and structure of Local Authorities that was an integral component of the New Constitution, with the “wall-to-wall municipalities”, Greyton Municipality was absorbed into Theewaterskloof Municipality in ‘2000. All Municipalities were required to adopt a Zoning Scheme that covered the entire municipal area – which incorporated seven previously independent regions.


As a result of a combination of TWKM having different priorities, as well as infighting among factions of residents, coupled with the under-scoping and under-delivery of the chosen consultant, both in ‘2000 as well as ‘2007, Greyton missed the opportunity of incorporating its Overlay in the gazetted Zoning Scheme, so that it would become binding law. The end-result was that the Greyton Aesthetics Guidelines were different to, and in critical areas more restrictive than, the Integrated Zoning Scheme adopted by TWKM. Where conflicts occurred, TWKM found them-selves with no alternative but to approve planning submissions that were not compliant with the Guidelines – where residents did not buy into the spirit and purpose of the Guidelines. This not only greatly diminished the effectiveness of the Greyton Aesthetics Advisory Committee, but threat-ened the fragile urban fabric that gives Greyton its special cachet and underpins its Tourism value.


Resulting from the impact of pointedly undesirable developments being foisted into the townscape of a Village that has remained largely unspoiled since 1854, civic leadership NGO’s resolved to once-and-for-all do whatever was necessary to have the Overlay properly Gazetted.


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Heritage Aesthetics Protection Overlay Zone


Following a review of the abortive initial processes of getting an Overlay promulgated, a decision was taken, supported by TWKM and relevant NGO’s, that in light of the substantive heritage nature of the townscape and environment, a Heritage Protection Overlay was the appropriate mechanism within the modern urban planning statutory structures to safeguard our heritage.
In addition, TWKM were compelled for independent legal reasons to review the Zoning Scheme that has been in place since 2011. Certain prerequisites are stipulated by the NHRA:


The National Heritage Resources Act No 25 of 1999 requires per Section 30.5 that:

“At the time of the compilation of a town or regional planning scheme or a spatial development plan, or at any other time of its choosing, . . ., a planning authority shall compile an inventory of the heritage resources which fall under its area of jurisdiction . . . .”


And further, in terms of Section 31.1:

“A planning authority must at the time of revision of a town or regional spatial plan, . . investigate the need for the designation of heritage areas to protect any place of environmental or cultural interest.”


TWKM consequently commissioned a professional Heritage Survey in 2015. As provided for under the Land Use Planning Act, TWKM decided to appoint a joint advisory Steering Committee to manage the design, control and implementation of both The Heritage Survey and the Overlay, with input and control from Province. In 2016 the Greyton Heritage Overlay Advisory Committee (HOZAC), was appointed as a sub-committee of the Greyton Conservation Society, which is the appointed Local Heritage Authority for the area, to assume these responsibilities. At a well-attended public meeting which included representation from all relevant stakeholders, nominations were received for voluntary members, who were subsequently appointed by TWKM.


Desk research in preparation of the fieldwork for the Heritage Survey entailed geo-referencing and overlaying the cadastral framework of Greyton over the 1938 and 1961 aerial photographs of the town, to identify all structures that were in place at the time. The former was the first compre-hensive record, and the latter was the closest record to the NHRA Section 34 cut-off period of 60 years, that triggers an assessment of the heritage provenance of a place. A census survey of all dwellings and buildings was conducted, to identify both the heritage assets worthy of registration on the SAHRIS database, as well as to formalise the typologies that would inform the Overlay.

Over 200 dwellings, stores and lodges were identified – that are worthy of a Heritage Grade of between Grade IIIC, Grade IIIB, Grade IIIA or Grade II. In addition, 66% of the Streetscapes, the Leiwater Reticulation System and the Green Belts will become Heritage Assets, up to Grade II, which entails “significance at the Provincial level” – underpinning Greyton’s historical significance.


Since the Greyton Architectural Aesthetics Guidelines were compiled, the legal framework of urban planning has undergone a metamorphosis. The most significant development has been the pro-mulgation of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Amendment Act (NBR&BSA) No 49 of 1995. In modern building control, all planning submissions are made primarily in terms of the NBR&BSA – in the process of which the Municipality’s Building Control Officer is required to determine whether there are additional acts that must be considered, e.g.:


§    NEMA                 National Environment Management Act              No 107 of 1998          

§    LUPA                  Land Use Planning Act (WC)                                 No     3 of 2014

§    NHRA                 National Heritage Resources Act                          No   25 of 1999

§    SPLUMA            Spatial Planning Land Use Management Act      No   16 of 2013

§    Zoning Scheme TWKM Municipal Land Use Planning By-Law     No 229 of 2015


The restrictions and development parameters of any of these Acts, inter alia, may be relevant to
a particular Land Use or land Development Planning Application, and, as specified in the relevant Acts, some of the Acts are deemed to prevail, or the more restrictive condition should be applied.


Prior to Greyton Municipality becoming absorbed into Theewaterskloof Municipality (TWKM) in ‘2000, the Greyton Aesthetics Guidelines had been incorporated into the Greyton Structure Plan, which was approved by Province in 1999, and became Policy. When TWKM developed its Spatial Development Framework (SDF) in 2011, the Greyton structure Plan was fully transposed into the SDF, which was adopted by Council in 2012, to become Policy. Under the Greyton Municipality’s Section 8 Zoning Scheme, the Aesthetics Guidelines were adopted by the Municipality as part of the Terms of Reference of the Aesthetics Committee, which was part-and-parcel of the GM. So in one form or another, the Aesthetics Guidelines have constituted Municipal Policy for decades.


Several versions of the Guidelines were developed over time, as the needs of the community evolved, or as experience in the field required revisions. All versions of the Guidelines were considered, together with the versions of the Draft Overlay, when the Aesthetics Guidelines were reverse-engineered to make them compatible with Greyton’s Local Area SDF, 2012.



In addition, the Greyton Heritage Survey (GHS) informed the Overlay, in that the GHS revealed that the vernacular architecture had evolved to produce a number of prevalent and acceptable (dependent on context and location) typologies that represented evolutions of the original two principal typologies prescribed in terms of the Guidelines. Historical photographic and anecdotal records revealed that corrugate sheeting made its appearance in the Overberg shortly after the formation of Greyton. Its performance, safety, ease of installation, relative economy, and lower pitched roofs meant that very soon it dominated thatch as a preferred roofing medium.


The other significant factor to the evolution of the basic “Greyton Cottage” was the gradual improvement in the economic means of the community, and their growing needs. Very soon, most “brandsolder” attics had been converted to storage or additional accommodation – and there is hardly a dwelling in Greyton that does not have an “afdak” lean-to extension, or a verandah, or both; more often than not incorporating bathrooms, that were added as living standards improved.


Consequently, most of the original basic rectilinear “Kaapse Langhuise” Cottages have been extended or modified into a more modern vernacular form of the quintessential “Greyton Cottage”. Accordingly, the typologies that are defined in the Guidelines have had to be adapted and extended, to make them an effective set of development parameters in a statutory Overlay. HOZAC has recognised that we are not merely preserving a few old buildings as a type of “theme park” – but instead we are protecting a rare and precious vernacular architecture and townscape by entrenching its typologies in a Heritage Aesthetics Protection Overlay Zone (HAPOZ).


The old Greyton Aesthetics Guidelines had to be amended to make them compliant with the demands of the NBR&BSA specifications – with particular reference to five criteria:

      i.        The definition of Lofts or Attic Rooms, which defined the required head-space in the attic;

     ii.        The requirements of SANS 10400 XA, which requires that the dominant portion of the
living area be oriented to the solar aspect, to obtain optimal insulation or energy efficiency;
Whereas the traditional Guidelines required a dwelling to be oriented to streetscapes;

    iii.        The revolution in innovative and measurably more efficient building materials, and the requirements of SANS 10400 XA that specifies levels of insulation and safety performance that prescribes the use of newer materials and designs to achieve necessary coefficients;

   iv.        The reality that sustainability of design has become an economic prerequisite that trumps any heritage or vernacular aesthetic considerations. Virtually no period homes featured water tanks, and none had solar panels or TV antenna. We are running out of water; we have to generate whatever solar power we can; and we live in the information age. These criteria of necessity had to be built into development parameters that become statutory;

     v.        Greyton has metamorphosed from a poor agricultural community where the typical family worked the morgen or two of land themselves by hand, and the economic model derived the majority of its added value from within the Village – into a “life-style” Village, where the majority of the LED drivers of the Village are either i) self-sufficient families, ii) derive their economic added value from Tourism or nearby agriculture; or iii) derive their economic sustainability from the internet, holiday homes, weekend homes or retirement homes.
Consequently, the needs, scale and living parameters of such residents had to be built into the development parameters of the Overlay, for it to have any relevance or applicability;


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HAPOZ Development Process and Public Participation


The singularly most important aspect of these Overlay development parameters is that they
have been distilled over more than a generation of use, at the rock face, in guiding and controlling building development in a practical and responsible manner. They are closely based on the Architectural Aesthetics Guidelines that evolved through several iterations, over many years of being tried-and-tested in the field. These parameters have been subjected to several exhaustive public participation processes:


§    When the Guidelines were incorporated into the Greyton Structure Plan, between 1996-1999 they were supported and substantiated by extensive broad-based ground research:

§    Table 12 under Section 2.1.7 of the Greyton Structure Plan reflects the percentage of
the sample of residents canvassed that “Agree” with the following statements:

Future vision for Greyton summarised in: “Keep Greyton Country”                   93%

Historical character of the town must be preserved by means of regulations   85%

Future expansion (urban sprawl) must be discouraged                                        80%

Industrial erven must be situate outside the current town area                           72%

Resubdivision of erven must be restricted, despite need for densification        69%


§    Table 11 reveals ‘Spatial’ problems were the 2nd, 3rd and 7th highest perceived priorities:

1             Employment creation for Heuwelkroon

2             Conservation of Built and Natural environment

3             Control Subdivision and over-development

4             Stable provision of water

5             Economic growth stimulation

6             Social problems – alcohol abuse

7             Stricter building regulations
(If the question had been phrased “strict” this would be even higher – ‘too’ strict already)
These criteria remain as relevant and representative today as they were back then;


§    By design, following proper process, back in the ‘nineties, before the current emphasis on proper democratic validation for government direction became the norm – to be established through transparent and inclusive ‘Public Participation Processes’ – the strategic focus of Greyton was already widely inclusive and fully democratic, from a visionary leadership!

§    All these criteria and findings were then subject to a rigorous Public Participation Process
as part of the publication of the Greyton Structure Plan in 1999, and approved by Province;

§    The Greyton Structure Plan was then in totality transposed into the Greyton Local Area Spatial Development Plan by TWKM in 2011, and adopted in 2012;

§    As part of that process, these self-same guidelines were subject to another thorough, well documented Public Participation Process by Urban Dynamics in 2011;

§    Prior to the formation of HOZAC, all Stakeholders in Greyton were thoroughly researched by EAMR and opinions and values were tabled at the public meeting inclusively. The public meeting “Workshop” where HOZAC was nominated and adopted was well-attended, documented and HOZAC leadership received broad-based acknowledgement;

§    The strategy and draft concepts of the new Overlay were specifically presented at numerous well-attended public meetings over many months, whereafter input was received from Stakeholders and incorporated;

§    The strategy and draft concepts of the new Overlay were again presented at several well-attended public meetings prior to, during, and on completion of Greyton Heritage Survey.
Input from Stakeholders was received and considered;

§    All known, available versions of the Guidelines were considered during and exhaustive exercise during 2016, where the Greyton Architectural Aesthetics Guidelines were reverse-engineered to be consistent with the Policy statements contained in the SDF referred to above, to ensure compatibility and logical statutory consistency. On advice from counsel retained by GCS/HOZAC, it was determined that the legal status of old “Guidelines” was merely “words on pieces of paper” that had no legal or statutory relevance. The only valid form of the Guidelines that were applicable to decisions of TWKM Council were the Policy statements contained within the approved Greyton Structure Plan and the SDF 2012;

Consequently, a compatible version of the Guidelines was reverse-engineered in 2016, to ensure that it reflected the Policies enshrined in the SDF. The HOZAC Workshops conducted to review and control this process concluded that there were no material elements of prior Guidelines, or of the Draft Versions of the Overlay that had been omitted;

§    The strategy and key draft concepts of the Overlay were presented at several well-pubicised and well-attended public meetings in Greyton:

ü  AGM 2016 - Greyton Council

ü  AGM 2016 – Greyton Conservation Society

ü  AGM 2016 – Greyton Tourism Association (open session)

ü  Greyton Creative – Workshop Sessions – Heritage Architecture

ü  University of 3rdAge – Workshop presentation – HOZAC Positioning

ü  University of 3rdAge – Workshop presentation – Heritage Survey

ü  University of 3rdAge – Workshop presentation – Overlay

§    Overlay strategy, design, details and entire content has been presented to and approved by
DEADP Overlay working party specialists;

§    Consequent upon that, TWKM can have confidence in using this Overlay to direct future urban development in Greyton. These Policies and Development Parameters will not easily be challenged or overturned, in that they have been through the test of time;

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