The Important Role of Modern Strategic Spatial Planning in South Africa to Address Unique Challenges

Strategic spatial planning as is also as relevant to South Africa, entails the methods used and approaches followed by government and private sector stakeholders in managing the distribution of activities and humans in spaces. It is a coordinated effort that includes policies and practices that affect spatial organisation of people and activities.

The process of strategic spatial planning in South Africa entails defining the priorities and outcomes of such. The creation of a strategic spatial plan must be relevant to a specific geographic area, and the implementation of the plan must be done effectively. Part of this process entails ongoing monitoring of outcomes of the strategic spatial plan.

Strategic spatial planning in post-apartheid South Africa has mainly been in reaction to the pre-1994 planning processes locally and internationally. The focus should be on guidance for optimal spatial development. Earlier strategic spatial planning frameworks have not been able to accommodate change and have often been too broad. A principle mistake in earlier planning processes in South Africa was the insufficient connection to infrastructure planning. However, many municipalities today deploy plans more closely connected to infrastructure planning.

Strategic spatial planning in South Africa, in line with international trends, is now done with consideration and linked with financial, regulatory, and institutional environments.

A core principle is the systematic response to spatial patterns across geographic areas, which make social and economic inequalities worse. One of the focusses of modern strategic planning in South Africa is the reduction of economic efficiencies. The interventions selected must thus bring about more spatial transformation in support of locally focussed and driven governance regarding spatial development. The aim is to create a balance between economic development, spatial equality, and sustainable environmental practices and management. In essence, the environment cannot be compromised for the sake of economic competitiveness.

The government and stakeholders today must focus on aspects such as increasing personal freedom through the expansion of choices regarding where one can live. The planning process must include participation of the communities affected by the spatial development plans.

It is important that the public and private sector clarify the overall national strategic spatial development vision, and create and optimise the instruments to attain the vision. It is also essential to develop the essential capabilities in the government and amongst the South African citizens.

Core spatial principles must be supported by the planning processes in South Africa. Accordingly, every person has the right to access and use land. Integral to this is the ability of people to earn a livelihood from the land. Sustainability is another very important principle. It focusses on social responsibility, affordability, environmental responsibility, and integration.

The design principles that should be applied to cities in South Africa include modularity, adaptability, environmental responsiveness, and diversity. It is also important to ensure efficiency in asset management, administration, and resource management.

Human settlement must be planned and developed in a manner that can address the issues created by segregation of communities in the post-1994 era. The conditions in the communities must be improved and sustainable living and working environments created.

It has been estimated that around 10% of the land in South Africa is suitable for human settlement and urban development, because the largest part of the country is suitable for agriculture, whilst the country’s geography also places limitations on habitable spaces. With such in mind, it is important to minimise urban sprawl, but at the same time, improve the settlement patterns and conditions within the urban spaces.

Although strategic spatial planning in South Africa is mostly broadly focussed because long-term development goals must be set, it is still important to connect the broad plans with immediate development needs. Spatial planning must thus effectively be linked to infrastructure planning, in order to attain such.

With a diverse population, an influx of people from Asian and African countries adding to the population of the country, globalisation of economic activities, and the challenge of addressing human settlement problems, it is essential to make use of experienced urban planning firms to assist the government and relevant stakeholders in creating sustainable strategic spatial plans relevant to the unique challenges of South Africa and its various cities.