Dos & Don’ts: Building in the Biosphere

Mar 19, 2024 | Uncategorized

Living in the Kogelberg Biosphere – so close to nature – is indeed a privilege. But it also comes with a great responsibility: going the extra mile for conservation, even when it’s not legally required.

Maintaining an ecologically sound lifestyle goes hand in hand with sustainable development. And since one of the biggest threats to biodiversity is unbridled urban expansion, building guidelines and regulations can be instrumental tools in ensuring that we leave as light an ecological footprint as possible.

Here are some tips for building in the biosphere to ensure that you comply with regulations, and that your construction has a minimal impact on the surrounding nature.

Understanding your erf’s location

It’s important to know that there are specific building plan approval processes for homeowners. On a municipal and national level, there are different building regulations that apply to specific properties, depending on how the erf is classified.

The first step is to gather information about the kind of plot you’re dealing with. On CapeFarmMapper you can use various map layers to determine a range of traits – like if the plot falls within a wetland (see ‘Wetlands and watercourses’ below) or what vegetation type occurs here. Simply click on ‘Layers’ in the tool panel on the left, then on ‘Add layers’ and select the relevant categories under ‘Resource layers’.

Another helpful tool is the Protected Areas Register. Here you can explore the Biosphere’s boundaries, as well as other protected zones to understand your plot’s proximity to formal conservation areas. If your plot is considered a transitional or buffer zone, additional restrictions may apply.

Wetlands and watercourses

If your property falls within a wetland (after checking CapeFarmMapper), some special permissions are required. All developments in or near wetlands require authorisation from the Breede-Olifants Catchment Management Agency (BOCMA). This approval is required by the Department of Water and Sanitation and without it Overstrand Municipality’s Environmental Management Section (EMS) cannot greenlight any building plans for wetland areas.

To obtain this authorisation, a recognised professional consultant (accredited by the S.A. Council for Natural Scientific Professions) must complete a ‘risk assessment’ for the development and submit it to the BOCMA. Besides being a legal requirement, such an assessment can be used to minimise the negative impact of the development on the wetland.

For example: A big threat to our precious wetlands is altering the natural flow of water through the wetland, which happens through the removal of vegetation or soil, the draining of wet areas, or infilling. When building, this can be avoided by minimising the footprint of the development on the ground – often achieved through building on stilts, or using “raft” foundations that allow for water movement without compromising the structure’s foundations. Another approach is incorporating the natural flow of water through your property by building on the drier part of the plot to avoid disturbing the wetter parts.

You will also have to declare the footprint (size in square metres) of the development, including the driveway and conservancy tank. And if infilling cannot be avoided, the cubic metres of infilling on the property must also be declared.

Other things to note:

  • If there are protected trees (like Milkwoods) on your property, pruning them for the sake of a view is strictly prohibited. You also may not prune/delimb more than 25% of such a tree without a permit from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).
  • The Overstrand Public Viewer gives pertinent information regarding zoning, the Overstrand Town Planning Scheme, as well as the Environmental Management Overlay Zones: Overstrand Public Viewer Click on ‘Layer list’ in the top right toolbar and tick the box next to ‘Environmental Management Overlay Zones’. Be sure to familiarise yourself with Overstrand’s EMOZ regulations Town & Spatial Planning – Overstrand Municipality) to understand what these zones mean for you as resident and property owner.

Images: LoveGreen Communications

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