The Importance of Spatial Planning for a Sustainable Future

Spatial planning as a public function has become more important over the years to ensure coherency in the approach towards creating sustainable cities, economies, and usage of natural resources. In this article, we look at what spatial planning is, why it is important and what it entails at each level.

What is Spatial Planning?

It is the process that entails organising the activities of a region or city with the aim of creating organised land use to balance economic growth needs with the need to reduce pressure on natural resources, while also being able to meet economic and social goals. It is a formal function within the public sector and includes coordination and improvement of the organisation of the activities in the region, territory or city. With the control, organisation, and coordination that can be achieved through this function, it is possible to gain better command over how a city, region or territory develops.

What are the Objectives of Spatial Planning?

The function has several objectives relevant to sustainable planning. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Improving the balance between the economic and social development of cities or regions within a larger territory.
  • Encouraging healthy competition between regions.
  • Creating better relations and cooperation between the urban and rural areas.
  • Enhancing accessibility for the communities to services and resources.
  • Reducing the footprint of human activity on the environment.
  • Expanding the knowledge base and making it more accessible to communities.
  • Preserving the natural heritage.
  • Taking steps to reduce or at least limit the negative effects of environmental disasters.
  • Promoting tourism activities that can be sustainable.
  • Developing and maintaining energy sources while reducing the effect on the environment and improving safety measures for the communities.
  • Reducing the risk of duplication of development efforts.

Levels of Spatial Planning

This function is performed at various levels within the public sector. Therefore, it is vital to show which responsibilities must be carried out by which department and at what level. The government develops the overall framework that includes the legislation, guidelines for national development, and implementation of the guidelines and legislation on all levels across the country.

At the government level, it also entails the monitoring of guidelines of implementation for the regional and local levels. The government should provide the necessary support for implementation of the guidelines. Support also includes sharing expertise and assisting with implementation.

Spatial planning on a regional level includes the creation and coordination of a strategy for the region in keeping its long-term development in mind. It is essential to perform this function with close cooperation from stakeholders at the local level.

The regional authorities must provide support by providing information to the local authorities regarding the main priorities in line with the national framework for development. This includes aspects such as information on areas to be protected, infrastructure development and improvement, review of projects and environmental impact assessments.

Spatial planning on the local level has to consider the national framework and national, as well as regional, policies when plans are made for land use and activity organisation. At the local level, the authorities must plan which instruments to use for regulating the activities and land use, decide which developments and resource allocations must take priority and prepare the plans for local spatial development.

The process also entails planning how to coordinate with the community leaders and the authorities must take steps to promote development. They also need to monitor the policies and implementation thereof. It is their responsibility to enforce the legislation at the local level and monitor adherence to the legislative requirements.

Management teams must lead the process of planning, ensuring community involvement, addressing and encouraging strategic investments from both the private and public sectors, and negotiating relevant aspects with important stakeholders. Spatial planning often fails at the local level due to the lack of expertise and management.

With the above in mind, it is essential for local authorities to work closely with or use the expertise of qualified and experienced town planners such as The Practice Group. View the full range of services offered in addition to our completed projects. This will provide the necessary insight as to how the Practice Group can assist at the national, regional and local levels to ensure the success of spatial planning functions.

Reach out to The Practice Group for more information. Call 012 362 1741 or complete the contact form.