Friday, 14 January 2022 11:01

Local Area Planning: A Key Element of the Planning 'New Normal'

Written by David Bettesworth
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Continuing where we left off in our November 2020 newsletter, we focus on another key facet of what is needed for the “New Normal”: Local Area Planning.

The extract below reflects some of David’s comments for SAACPP in relation to the urgent need for a greater degree of Local Area Planning in order to give greater levels of certainty to all role players in the development process. While the following comments relate specifically to the Blaauwberg Area, they have a generic nature and could be applied to the City and in fact the rest of South Africa as a whole.

 

“The references in the BSDF to the required local area planning initiatives in the Blaauwberg area are appreciated and supported.

There remains however an ongoing concern that the City does not have/has not optimally allocated adequate capacity/resources to undertake the level of local area planning required in order to achieve its spatial planning objectives and obligations.

The importance of local area planning cannot be underestimated. In some cases, developers of large enough sites can be called on to initiate their own Section 12 local spatial development frameworks/precinct plan processes, but in most instances the City needs to take the initiative.

The older parts of Table View are a case in point. Parts of the community and even certain politicians appear to have a conservative, and in some cases, it would appear an anti-development stance. Yet the MSDF, BSDP and other adopted City policies such as the TOD (Transit Oriented Development) Policy and Densification Policy make it clear that densification, particularly around TOD and MyCiti routes should be promoted. (Table View has some of the most efficient MyCiti routes in the City).

The absence of updated local area planning policies has arguably contributed to large TOD-supporting development projects being turned down on appeal with serious consequences – in large part due to the fact that the statements made in the 2012 BSDP were too broad/interpreted too conservatively. An updated local area plan with clearer/more detailed statements around height, land use and design would have resolved any such ambiguity.

Local Area planning enables all stakeholders (the community, developers, professionals/officials and politicians) to collectively drill down into the local area’s unique characteristics and arrive at sustainable development solutions that give clear direction to both developers and decision makers. As the draft BSDP Implementation Report correctly concludes, developers and their professional teams face enough challenges in securing planning permissions, not to have to also deal with the risk of having their applications turned down on appeal (at the end of the planning process), due to a clear difference of opinion between officials and the Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) on the one hand, and the Planning Appeals Advisory Panel (PAAP) committee on the other, as to how the same set of policies should be interpreted in relation to their development proposal.

Developers need a certain level of certainty and while they may expect the final decision-makers to require adjustments to their development proposal in order to for example accommodate valid community concerns, it is clearly unacceptable for them, after having pre-application consultations with officials in which broad policy support is confirmed, to then spend easily over a million rand on professional and Council fees (not to mention holding costs), wait two years for a final decision, only to have their development projects refused in entirely/to the point that they are no longer viable, on appeal. Surely developers faced with such prospects will think twice before attempting to develop again in the Blaauwberg area/or in the rest of the City for that matter. Taking all of the above into account, for the City to have only adopted a handful of local area plans in the last 10 years and for the City and applicants to have to still rely on local plans that are over 20 years old, is clearly of great concern.

Lastly local area/precinct planning is necessary to enable the City to identify the strategic and rapid release of City/Government owned land for urgently needed development. This development is needed to provide affordable housing, spatial transformation and help kick-start the property development and construction industry that has taken a severe knock as result of severe economic conditions.

In short, the City has to get serious about facilitating both development and capacity in its key departments such as Spatial Planning and Property Development Management, and/or appoint private sector consultants to undertake local area planning.”

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