Short Introduction to the Principles of Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act

The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act No. 16 of 2013, also known as SPLUMA, came into being to allow for the creation of a new framework for regulation of planning permissions and the setting of new boundaries for developments, in addition to providing a new framework for land uses in the country. It provides the main principles on which provincial laws related to planning can be based. The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act replaced many of regulations from the pre-1994 government to ensure uniformity and effectiveness in planning, to encourage broader economic and social inclusion for the people of the country.

Though the new Act has certainly addressed the above issues, it has not been accepted without some controversy, especially as related to the role of the traditional councils. Many critics of the new spatial and land use management regulations have argued that traditional councils have too much power under SPLUMA. Regulation 19 governs the powers of the traditional councils specifically as related to land use management and planning. The Act stipulates that a traditional council has the right and power to conclude an SLA with the municipality in which the council is situated according to the regulations of the provisional and national laws.

It also states that, should a traditional council not conclude an SLA with the municipality in which it is located, the council has the responsibility of providing the necessary proof of allocation of land according to the customary law that is in force in the council’s area to the applicant for land use or development, so that the applicant can submit the application in compliance with the requirements of the regulations. What it comes down to is that a municipality can enter into an agreement with a traditional council, which would make it possible for the council to take control of some part of the planning process and gain powers over land use management functions of the municipality.

What SPLUMA is About

In layman’s terms, SPLUMA allows for the creation of a single spatial planning and land use management system for South Africa, which entails policy and legislation creation, in addition to the provision of principles upon which to base land use planning. Sustainable development forms an integral part of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act’s focus. With the focus on sustainability the emphasis is even beyond the environmental protection; it is also about economic, political, and social systems in support of responsible usage of available resources. It is more than just changes in behavioural patterns as relevant to the interaction and usage of the environment; it is about transformational changes to the larger systems affecting human actions.

As such, an integrated approach to land use management is followed and the silo effect is something of the past. The Act helps to create social ecological systems where the ecosystems and society are functioning in an integrated manner. A holistic approach is followed to ensure adaptability in the systems. With sustainable development, the focus is on what we should do to get the desired outcomes. The SPLUMA principle of spatial justice gives more flexibility to allow for a variety of settlements and the upgrading of settlements. The principle of spatial sustainability entails planning and consideration for infrastructure costs, the creation of sustainable settlements, improvement in food security, and consideration for environmental conservation.

The principle of efficiency entails a focus on responsible and efficient governance in optimising the usage of the existing resources, and steps in limiting negative impact of human activities on the environment. It entails innovative approaches to improve spatial performance management. The spatial resilience principle highlights the importance of creating sustainable livelihoods and the ability to avoid and handle unexpected incidents or shocks. The principle of responsible administration is also at the core of SPLUMA. It entails planned decision-making involving all relevant stakeholders and the following of an integrated approach towards spatial planning and land use management. It entails the setting of timeframes and ensuring that the developments occur within these timeframes.

SPLUMA introduces a new approach to spatial development and land use management in South Africa in line with the global focus on sustainable urban and human settlement planning.