Schemes’ de­lays spark dis­con­tent

Cape in­dus­try play­ers are chal­lenged by costly hold ups in build­ing and plan­ning ap­provals amid tough mar­ket con­di­tions, writes Anna-Marie Smith

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CAPE Town’s build­ing in­dus­try is voic­ing its frus­tra­tion re­gard­ing lengthy de­lays at the City of Cape Town’s Plan­ning and Build­ing Devel­op­ment Depart­ment, caused by plans not ap­proved within stip­u­lated pe­ri­ods, or when ob­jec­tions and ap­peals are lodged.

Yet, the city says its mu­nic­i­pal­ity, span­ning 2 461km² and serv­ing 3,2-mil­lion peo­ple, dur­ing the 2009-10 fi­nan­cial year saw the depart­ment process 24 265 (sub­mit­ted) build­ing plans, of which 24 313 (some car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous year) were ap­proved, cov­er­ing a range of devel­op­ment types across the en­tire Cape Metropoli­tan area.

Rais­ing his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the city re­cently Paul Henry of Raw­son De­vel­op­ers said: “If a scheme is held up for an un­rea­son­ably long pe­riod it will be­come non-vi­able — and may well bank­rupt the de­vel­oper, as has hap­pened time and time again in the last two years.”

Henry said while the sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing hold-ups due to ob­jec­tions is not ac­cept­able, it is im­per­a­tive that ob­jec­tion pro­cesses be re­viewed to re­duce the time it takes.

“It has to be ac­cepted that there are cer­tain projects which are def­i­nitely not de­sir­able — but these de­vel­op­ments sel­dom get out of the start­ing blocks. The cur­rent tragedy is that good schemes de­signed by highly rep­utable ar­chi­tects in col­lab­o­ra­tion with ex-

Plan ap­proval and land use man­age­ment ser­vice pro­vided by the lo­cal author­ity are not con­sid­ered to be sat­is­fac­tory by 95%, while 97% do not con­sider the time for pro­cess­ing land use ap­pli­ca­tions to be ac­cept­able

pe­ri­enced de­vel­op­ers and con­ser­va­tion ori­ented land­scap­ers are then held up and killed off by small, highly ar­tic­u­late mi­nori­ties,” said Henry

Com­ment­ing on de­layed ap­proval pro­cesses, the City of Cape Town’s di­rec­tor plan­ning and build­ing devel­op­ment, Ch­eryl Wal­ters, said: “The depart­ment is con­stantly re-en­gi­neer­ing its busi­ness pro­cesses to im­prove ser­vice de­liv­ery and has ini­ti­ated dis­cus­sion fo­rums with pro­fes­sional in­sti­tu­tions in the city to in­form, test and dis­cuss con­cepts jointly.”

Wal­ters said these fo­rums are go­ing well and dis­cus­sions will be ex­tended to com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tions as well, to im­prove un­der­stand­ing of the com­plex plan­ning realm in which the city op­er­ates.

She said when plans are ob­jected to by neigh­bours, rate pay­ers as­so­ci­a­tions, or pro­fes­sional bod­ies it forms part of the Land Use Plan­ning Or­di­nance process that re­quires pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion, re­sult­ing in ap­pli­ca­tions to be heard at a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal level, adding to time de­lays.

Ap­peals against an ap­proval — in some in­stances there is an op­por­tu­nity for an ap­peal to be heard twice — can ei­ther be heard by the city man­ager or the pro­vin­cial govern­ment, depend­ing on the ap­pli­ca­ble leg­is­la­tion.

Wal­ters says de­lays can be avoided if devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions com­ply with zon­ing scheme pa­ram­e­ters, and de­vel­op­ers en- gage the com­mu­nity with re­gard to the devel­op­ment pro­posal.

In a sur­vey con­ducted by the Cape In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­ture in Oc­to­ber last year where 58 re­spon­dents were ques­tioned on ser­vice de­liv­ery at the depart­ment, 50% said the ser­vice re­lated to straight for­ward (no de­par­tures or land use is­sues) pro­vided by the lo­cal author­ity has not im­proved in the last year.

Plan ap­proval and land use man­age­ment ser­vice pro­vided by the lo­cal author­ity are not con­sid­ered to be sat­is­fac­tory by 95%, while 97% do not con­sider the time for pro­cess­ing land use ap- pli­ca­tions to be ac­cept­able. The time for pro­cess­ing com­plex build­ing plans is con­sid­ered un­ac­cept­able by 83% and 69% do not feel the plan ap­proval ser­vice pro­vided by the lo­cal author­ity im- proved in the last year.

Wal­ters said that dur­ing the depart­ment’s in­ter­ac­tion with the Cape In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­ture, the city re­quested that should al­le­ga­tions of prob­lems with the pro­cess­ing of a build­ing plan be en­coun­tered, her depart­ment is con­tacted.

She said that where the Cape In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­ture raised an is­sue, a lack of com­pli­ance by the ap­pli­cant was found.

“This non-com­pli­ance is due to a lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing of the zon­ing scheme reg­u­la­tions and build­ing reg­u­la­tions by the ar­chi­tec­tural fra­ter­nity. In a re­cent sur­vey con­ducted by the depart­ment to ver­ify the con­stant al­le­ga­tions, it was found that 66% of Land Use Plan­ning Or­di­nance ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived by the depart­ment were non-com­pli­ant.”

Ar­chi­tect Mar­cus Smit re­cently com­mented on an ob­jec­tion by Gor­don’s Bay Vil­lage Ac­tion Group, fol­low­ing the ap­proval of an ap­pli­ca­tion for a ren­o­va­tion by both the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and sub­coun­cil, now sub­jected to the lengthy process of pro­vin­cial govern­ment ap­proval.

Mar­cus said while he is sat­is­fied with the over­all ser­vice of the com­pe­tent staff at the depart­ment, they are bound by the sys­tem. He called for the re­view of pro­cesses at coun­cil level, and spe­cific at­ten­tion paid to ob­jec­tions and ap­peals lodged sub­se­quent to ap­provals, caus­ing fur­ther de­lays when go­ing to Pro­vin­cial level.

In her re­sponse to the coun­cil on this ob­jec­tion, Bar­bara Louw, spokesper­son for Gor­don’s Bay vil­lage Ac­tion Group, said: “We are of the opin­ion that the Coun­cil should not have ap­proved the ap­pli­ca­tion for de­vi­a­tion in a sin­gle res­i­den­tial area in terms of the Gor­don’s Bay Zon­ing Scheme Reg­u­la­tions.”

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