The Failure of Land Use Management in the Western Cape
Economic development is the key to social development and human upliftment.
It is therefore absolutely essential that there needs to and must be an urgent paradigm shift away from continued lateral growth, toward three-dimensional growth - ie inward growth, densification.
Add to this the need to plan for and develop towards being ready for the planning and developmental effects of climate change, the energy revolution, infrastructural priorities and service delivery needs, and it becomes patently clear that all the above in combination define the fundamental principle of land use planning and development in the Western Cape.
Within the Western Cape
In 1999, the Provincial Development Act (or PDA) was approved after it underwent a full public participation process. The PDA was revolutionary in that it sought to integrate an array of planning legislation, such as the Land Use Planning Ordinance (LUPO), the Removal of Restrictions Act and the Less Formal Township Establishment Act.
Unfortunately, before the PDA could be implemented, the ANC took over the Western Cape Province. The ANC immediately stopping the PDA from being implemented.
It was at this point that the department again initiated another law reform integration process.
The purpose of that exercise was to attempt to integrate the plethora of planning, environmental, heritage-resource and agricultural legislation with the view to creating a one-stop shop for land use planning and environmental management in the Western Cape and ultimately ensure that the land use and environmental management approval process is streamlined and unnecessary duplication and delays are prevented.
A draft law, the Land Management Bill, was ready in 2007, but again shelved by the ANC.
This was indeed a lost opportunity in which the Western Cape could have led the way in the law reform process. It should be noted that it was not the DA that stopped this process, but the political heads of the ANC.
In the National Sphere
Since 2000 the Western Cape Government made requests for the National Department in charge of land affairs to clarify the roles and responsibilities set out in the Constitution that referred to municipal, provincial and national planning, as well as to debate the content of the draft Land Use Management Bill, but as can be expected with no joy.
In May of 2011, the Western Cape Government sent a letter to the National Minister in which it was requested that an IGR committee be established to fully debate and engage on SPLUMB; however, despite both written and email correspondence having occurred, no such committee was established.
There are many problems that we have with SPLUMB, one of these being the fact that the envisaged tribunals can overrule the municipal provincial decision-making process, thereby removing representative responsibility for decisions taken and replacing it with technocratic rule.
Progress in the Western Cape Legislation Process
So how far is the Western Cape in the drafting of its own Land Use Planning Bill? Currently the bill has been advertised for input and comment from all interested and affected parties. A total of 56 sets of comments have been received.
What are the Key Problems with the Land Use Management System?
Municipalities often approve applications simply to continue urban sprawl development and to increase their rates base, without due planning consideration for the long-term desirability of the application. Short-term financial interests often trounce longer term sustainability interest.
What is the Effect?
Most applications approved up to the first decade of this century were for greenfield development for the higher income groups.
We have places like Saldanha and George and others where there are thousands of vacant serviced erven for the higher income groups. In one case there are more than 20 000 serviced of which only 8 000 have been built upon.
I can assure you that few of those are for the market where the real needs of society are. Is the prime mover need or greed? Is it done under the guise of economic development?
To catch up socio-economically, physical development should now focus on business, industrial and low-cost housing development which are the real job creators.
It is interesting to look where the problems in terms of land use planning existed over the past ten years and which political party was in charge; just to name a few: Oudtshoorn, Bitou et cetera. Even Cape Town is still battling with the heritage of ANC rule.
What Have We Done and What Will We Do?
In the Western Cape, planning for inward urban growth (densification), biodiversity preservation, agricultural and heritage conservation and good rural and urban land use planning, is an essential prerequisite for socio-economic development in the interest of the province's population.
Land use planning is aimed at attaining and maintaining wise use of land. Wise use of land, in turn, can be defined as land usage for which there is a need and which is desirable.
The term need and desirability is one of the fundamental principles of land use planning. Need refers to the public need for, and timing of, the particular land use proposal, and desirability refers to whether the development proposal is correctly located. Need therefore covers the socio-economic aspect and desirability the physical aspect in regard to a particular development proposal.
Province's unique rural resources - agriculture, biodiversity, mountains, coasts, other scenic areas, heritage-resource areas and game park land - must be protected.
Good planning leads economic development and economic development leads human development. Provincial planning, and through that, regional planning and development as well as urban and rural development, should therefore be a central tenet of socio-economic development policy in the province.
In summary of all the above, Western Cape land use planning takes as point of departure the goal of sustainable development.
This means that the development needs of the present generation should be met without the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, being compromised - the principle of sustainability.
We must legally enforce meaningful provincial participation in the national law reform process to ensure that the National Act will serve the interests of all and not impede on constitutional principles.
We will continue to assist municipalities under our constitutional, regulation, support and monitoring function. The department provides assistance to municipalities.
The department has also developed and approved the Provincial Spatial Development Framework (PSDF) which puts the policy, guidelines and framework in place to enable a degree of uniformity in municipal planning that is required in provincial interest, as well as allowing the province to exercise a degree of regulation, support and monitoring.
We will build out our BESP program and our SDF guidance to municipalities. In particular, bulk infrastructure planning and development maintenance must be focused upon.
In general, the land use system in the Western Cape is on solid ground; however, the implementation thereof is a challenge.