The Importance of Modern, Integrated Spatial Development Planning Principles

Integrated development planning forms an important part of modern spatial planning. The spatial planning function is seated mainly in the public sector with the purpose of affecting the distribution of activities in specific spaces. Integrated development planning aims to achieve improved distribution and organisation of the land use in a region, and the country as whole. Part of this focus is to create balanced development, which helps to minimise the effects of human and economic activity on the environment, whilst still ensuring that economic and social objectives can be met.

Integrated development spatial planning therefore entails measures for coordination and improvement of economic distribution within a specific area that would otherwise have developed according to the economic influence, regardless of what impact the developments would have had on the environment and sustainable practices. The main function of spatial planning is to improve integration between the various systems and sectors, such as transport, energy, industries, and housing, with due consideration of possible environmental impact.

In a regulatory capacity, spatial planning on national and local levels forms the framework in which specific activities are permitted. In a developmental capacity, it is used for the creation of infrastructure and directing development, whilst also creating a positive investment environment and ensuring the sustainable use of national resources. The main aims of integrated development planning are to improve territorial unity through better planning of economic and social development in the particular areas and to improve accessibility, reduce environmental impact and create better relationships between urban and rural areas. It also aims to protect natural heritage, promote sustainable tourism practices and promote cultural heritage, in addition to improving access to information. Another goal is to reduce the potential damage of natural disasters.

Integrated spatial development planning reduces the risk of effort duplication by various departments and communities, since responsibilities are clear and well distributed. The government is, for example, responsible for the framework regarding policies that are used to give direction to decision-making. Functions at this level include the development of a legal framework and the effective monitoring and coordination of the various sectors between the different territories. The government needs to identify possible problem areas such as bottlenecks in the implementation of policies. Other functions at government level include the development of a support structure for regional authorities in implementing the national policies. To ensure that this can be done, it is essential to have strong political leadership in place working with professional experts for optimal support in the implementation of guidelines.

On the regional level, the main focus is to prepare and coordinate the spatial plan with a long-term view of more than ten years into the future regarding the overall development plan for a particular area. It can only be done effectively if there is adequate cooperation between the regional authorities, stakeholders and the communities in the region. Another task on regional level is to ensure optimal support of the local authorities through the provision of information regarding the various priorities, the delivering of infrastructure and the management of environmental assessments.

Local implementation of the national and regional plans can only be effective through the involvement of local communities and stakeholders, because implementation directly affects the people on the ground that use the infrastructure. At local level, the authorities must prepare regulatory instruments, ensure that there are clear guidelines for priorities, set action plans, and work with the neighbourhood leaders and authorities throughout the implementation process. Community involvement is essential and participative measures should be in place to facilitate its involvement.

Development often happens faster than the creation of legislation. As such, outdated legislation must be replaced to ensure on-going relevancy. Spatial planning can only be effective if it is done on all levels and this is why an integrated approach to development planning has now become a priority. The laws, policies and implementation guidelines must be relevant to the present situation but also to the future development of the various sectors.

Departments cannot follow their own agendas. They must work together and within the framework of the overall development plans for the country and regions. As such, clear funding policies, relevant legislation, and adequate support must be available to ensure that technical and organisational issues can be addressed to avoid unbalanced implementation of the development plans.