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
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.”