Applications and Planning

Who Has To Submit Building Plans?

The short answer is everyone. It is a legal requirement that any new building and any alteration that adds on to or changes the structure of an existing building must go to the City’s (Planning) Development Management Department for approval. Approval must be given by the City Council before work can commence on site. If you paint, redecorate or re-plaster, you don’t need permission because you haven’t moved any walls or altered the drainage system. However, if you make a change to the structure, such as adding a carport or even moving the front door position, you require permission to do so. When you submit a building plan for approval it is essential that you make sure that you have complied with the zoning regulations of the Town Planning Scheme.

Why Is Building Plan Approval Important?

1. Stop Orders from the JHB City Council:

If you’ve chosen to build without having the plans approved, a building inspector is entitled to enter your property and order construction to stop immediately.

He could obtain a court order for the structure to be demolished, at your expense, and you would be liable for legal costs. In serious cases, you could be fined or sent to prison.

2. Hand-over of Approved Plans on sale of the House:

Transgressions may come back to haunt you in later years when you want to sell yuor home, and the purchasers insist on getting the approved plans.  This is fast becoming the norm in real estate transactions

3. Insurance Implications:

Illegal building work may negatively affect any future insurance claims where insurers may not pay out claims if a structure is found to be illegally erected.

4. Community Harmony:

It is important for the sake of community harmony, to ensure that no structures are erected that negatively affect the neighbours or surroundings. One of the main reasons our suburbs are sought after and valuable is the character of the area. It is in the interest of all the residents to safeguard this precious resource.

Heritage Applications

Heritage Applications are required for any structure older than 60 years (whether homes, offices, apartment blocks or public buildings) as these are automatically a protected heritage resource which may not be altered without prior permission of the Provincial Heritage Resource Agency Gauteng (PHRAG). This permission should be granted PRIOR to submitting plans to the City of Johannesburg for approval, and applies to both internal and external alterations.

Most Johannesburg townships/suburbs date back to before 1960, and therefore all submissions will require proof of when your house was built. Should you not be able to find such proof, or should the house be older than 60 years, you will need to prepare a submission to PHRAG motivating the changes you wish to make. 

It is a requirement of the Act that the local residents’ associations or heritage bodies give comment on this submission. This may sound like a daunting and bureaucratic process but the intention is a good one that strives to protect special buildings and the character of the neighbourhood. To assist and ease this process, Johannesburg Heritage Foundation runs three Joint Plans Committees (JPCs), and has a team of town planners, architects and heritage specialists to call on when making the assessment.

The Central JPC covers the city centre, Parktown, Westcliff, Forest Town, Dunkeld, Parkview and all other areas not covered by JPC East or West.

The JPC East covers Kensington to Doornfontein, Modderfontein to Melrose, and includes Upper and Lower Houghton, Norwood, Orchards, Oaklands, The Gardens, Sydenham and Sandringham – broadly, the north-eastern suburbs. 

The JPC West covers Fietas to Melville, Brixton to Northcliff, and broadly covers the suburbs west and north-west of the city. 

The JPC’s constructive input can be useful in highlighting any heritage-related issues that need to be considered prior to construction, and their approval can go a long way towards getting the go-ahead from the relevant authorities. The JPC’s can also intervene if they identify an unauthorised development, potentially causing delays in construction or even injunctions. So, it’s a good idea to approach the JPC’s sooner rather than later for their feedback.

If you have any queries or questions, please email Please include a brief description of your property, the proposed renovation/development and its physical address so we can send it to the relevant JPC.

Important Documents

PHRAG Checklist
Heritage application checklist
PHRAG Check List.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 31.0 KB 
PHRAG Application
Application to be completed for changes to structures older than 60 years
PHRAG Application Form.docx
Microsoft Word Document 37.0 KB
A Quick Guide to the National Heritage Resources Act for Home Owners
Application to be completed for changes to structures older than 60 years. Compiled by Mayat Hart Architects & Heritage Consultants.