Cities to have their say in land development

2014-05-20 00:00

NEW legislation that is simply waiting to be signed into law could be the answer to speeding up town councils’ ability to approve building plans.

And experts in city development believe we could now see a transformation within our cities moving away from the Apartheid design to a more inclusive landscape.

The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (Spluma), which is simply waiting to be gazetted after being approved by Parliament in August 2013, has granted municipalities greater control in dictating how land is to be used while developers are excited as the act should speed up the planning process.

Metros such as Durban have come under significant pressure to meet the demands of a swelling population, affordable housing and job creation and with the greater authority being given to the council through this act, it is hoped by developers the city could fast-track plans and get people working and building.

South African Property Owners’ Association KZN chairperson Edwin van Niekerk said the act, while it still needs to be implemented at local level, will allow developers to be decisive.

“Developers have been acting in limbo with no real legislation to refer themselves to. It also allows for various levels of authorisation to be created so if you have a garage you want to renovate you shouldn’t have to wait as long as a person building a multi-storey development for your plans to be approved, which at the moment can be the case,” said Van Niekerk.

South African Planning Institute CEO Cornelia van der Bank said Spluma will allow “us to be more efficient” and provide better guidance for planners.

“It will have an influence on spatial transformation in an orderly fashion and it will give us teeth to allow us to be more efficient,” said Van der Bank.

But she said while it could speed up the planning process, much will still rest with the various councils.

“Besides the fixed legislated times such as for advertising and comment the rapidness for planning to be passed is reliant on the capacity of the various municipalities. Town planning is not wholly independent in that it relies on other arms of a municipality before taking a decision. Therefore shortages elsewhere affect the final result,” said Van der Bank.

Geci Karuri-Sebina, the executive manager for programmes at SA Cities Network, an NPO in which South Africa’s top cities are members, said while the act allows for greater “spatial transformation”, South African cities are “expensive for the poor”. “The poor are far from employment and they must pay high prices to travel. Part of spatial transformation of the cities is for social integration. Spatial transformation is to get cities functioning more efficiently and bring people closer to both new and existing nodes,” said Karuri-Sebina.

The eThekwini Metro and Msunduzi Municipality were both contacted for comment but did not reply at the time of going to press.

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