The Simon’s Town Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC)
Simon’s Town is the Custodian of a significant number of Heritage buildings. Some of these provide the setting for the famous Historical Mile – balconies, cast ironwork, broekie-lace, a mixture of dressed stone and white plaster structures, curving gently along the contour of St. George’s Street. Behind these commercial and naval buildings, rising in layers along the cliff face, are the dwelling houses – again with pleasing proportions and appearance, interspersed with green areas and connected with lanes and steps. Whether observed from the Red Hill Road viewing places, from the coast road across Simon’s Bay, from the sea itself or simply by walking along the thoroughfares, the look of Simon’s Town is quite unique.
This does not happen by accident. Elsewhere there is much evidence of attractive and historic buildings that have fallen victim to the developers’ bulldozers and demolition gangs, in order to hastily erect tiered flats that capitalise on sea views – and make money for their absentee owners. Space, style and architectural features are thus replaced by compact, bland and featureless designs. The ‘look and feel’ of a community is easily lost to developers who care nothing for the history and culture or the ‘sense of place’ that is the result of organic growth over many decades or centuries.
The risk to Simon’s Town was recognised in 1985; the then Municipality of Simon’s Town Council “accepts the desirability of exercising control of building design in certain areas to ensure compatibility of alterations and new structures and that use be made of professionals in the preparation of suitable guidelines”. Council Resolution 647/85 led to the establishment of the Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC) in terms of Provincial Ordinance No. 15 of 1985.
The remit of the AAC extends from the start of the Historical Mile –at Simon’s Town Railway Station- to Belmont Road and from St. George’s Street up the cliff to the defined Urban Edge.
The Committee is chaired by the Ward Councillor and includes professional architects, representatives from the Simon’s Town Civic Association and the Simon’s Town Historical Society – which is also a Registered Conservation Body in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act 1999.
The objectives of the Architectural Advisory Committee are:
1. To define and carry out a systematic review and comment feedback process, as part of the statutory procedure for obtaining Planning Approvals, such that the unique architectural, heritage and aesthetic aspects of the Simon’s Town Special Zone ‘A’ are properly addressed and conserved for the benefit of the Town and future generations;
2. To provide guidance to land or building owners, their architects and designers or other parties, in terms of parameters for plot layout, structure scale, architectural design, building finishes and other attributes as may be consistent with maintaining the unique visual appeal and historical antecedents of Simon’s Town;
3. To actively support the local Registered Conservation Bodies (the Simon’s Town Historical Society and the Naval Heritage Society) in their respective aims, objectives and duties, and to similarly support Provincial and National Heritage and Conservation organisations (Heritage Western Cape and the South African Heritage Resources Agency);
4. To guard against inappropriate or ill-considered development proposals within the area of remit;
5. To actively support adherence to the Simon’s Town Structure Plan and other legally enforceable liabilities that attach to development proposals;
6. To provide a prompt, exemplary and impartial service as a Commenting Body of the City of Cape Town Council.
The Architectural Advisory Committee has sponsored Guidelines in support of the above objectives. This document provides clear information for householders, property owners, architects and developers.
A major contributor to the appearance of Simon’s Town is the signage displayed, particularly by business premises. The AAC reviews proposals for new or amended signs within its area of remit. The City of Cape Town publication “Guidelines for Signs in Urban Conservation Areas in Cape Town” provides information to property owners and businesses.
The current edition of the guidelines can be viewed here URL: http://www.simonstown.com/hac/index.html