Joburg’s town planning blunder

Joburg’s town planning blunder

“Disastrous” scheme to be delayed for years as it goes through appeal process.

The implementation of Johannesburg’s new consolidated town planning scheme is likely to be delayed for up to a further two years as industry professionals take it on appeal to the townships board.

The move to appeal, which will see as many as five separate industry bodies filing to have the scheme reworked, comes on widespread dissatisfaction with the quality and practicality of the key document.

Industry bodies have accused Johannesburg of failing to properly consider submissions made during the consultation processes prior to the drafting of the document, resulting in inconsistent and contradictory definitions.

Currently, Johannesburg has 14 separate town planning schemes which cover historic town council jurisdictions around Johannesburg, such as Sandton, Roodepoort and the CBD.

In drafting the new legislation, Johannesburg has attempted to consolidate the rules and regulations of the 14 existing schemes into a single document.

The inconsistencies in the new document are likely to impede property development in the city. This is because ambiguous or contradictory definitions will create confusion during the planning phase of developments. It is also understood that the definitions for alterations and rezoning may create further confusion as every aspect of the building will be regulated. Valuations would also be affected.

As a result the published scheme, promulgated in late November, has been labelled by industry professionals as a “disastrous”, “unworkable” and “legally incompetent” document.

The South African Association of Consulting Professional Planners (SAACPP) on Thursday confirmed that it will be filing an appeal to prevent the scheme from entering into effect as law.

“The industry is very much in favour of a consolidated scheme but the way it’s been drafted is simply unworkable,” said SAACPP Johannesburg Chairperson, Lloyd Druce.

“It wasn’t just a consolidated scheme; there where all sorts of clauses added. There where changes in definitions; there where all sorts of issues … They [Johannesburg] nevertheless went and published the scheme without considering what had been submitted as objections,” he said.

“If left to proceed into law … instead of creating a new, simple, understandable and coherent document to manage land use in the city, it will create a document embroiled in confusion,” said Druce.

The scheme was expected to become law 56 days following its promulgation on November 23. According Druce, four other bodies are believed to be preparing appeals which must be filed by December 21. The appeal process is likely to delay implementation for at least two years, he said.

The planning scheme is seen as a fundamental, legally binding, document designed to guide all future property development in the city while defining the zoning and guising alterations of existing properties.

Adv Douglas Shaw examined the document for the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa). The organisation said that the scheme in its current form “will have significant negative effects on the property industry”.

According to Shaw, the importance of the document should not be underestimated: “It is a very important document. Any development at all in the city will use the document as a guide.

“It’s that fundamental; no development can take place without looking at the document…

“The reason why you go to consultation for comment is that when you put any document to other people, they see the flaws in the document and they give you good ideas … If people point out things which are glaringly inconsistent, or they contradict themselves and you don’t correct them, it defeats the whole point of the exercise,” said Shaw.

“If it’s a point of consistency or logic then not to change just means that you have not really applied your mind to it, you have been lazy.”

“It’s become an unholy mess at the moment,” said Keith Brebnor, CEO of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). He added that key submissions made by industry stakeholders “have been ignored”.

Johannesburg had not replied to a request for comment by the time of going to print.

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Denny Crane

Denny Crane
It's not me ... yet. Denny Crane from the TV series Boston Legal. Click on picture if you're not sure who he is!