Following the enactment of Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 2013 (SPLUMA) in July 2015, there has been a veritable lull in activity surrounding the implementation of the new planning law dispensation.
Municipalities throughout the country are hard at work in preparing new planning by-laws for each of the municipal jurisdictions. The municipal by-laws are to be adopted to be brought into effect. Typically, this will be foreshadowed by a public participation process to afford interested and affected parties an opportunity to comment on the draft provisions proposed by the relevant municipalities.
Locally, the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality has published its draft By-law for comment and has called for nominations for persons to serve on its Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT). Expectations are that both the MPT and the new By-law will come into operation in early 2016.
As far as Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni are concerned, it is reported that the planning by-laws have been prepared in draft but have not been published for comment as yet. In the case of Johannesburg, it is foreseen that the existing Municipal Tribunal (a collection of municipal officials from various municipal divisions) will serve as the new Municipal Planning Tribunal as contemplated in SPLUMA, to decide relevant matters which are submitted in terms of the new by-law. There is no precise date of enactment in this regard, and the SAACPP will keep members informed accordingly.
It has been reported that, in the Free State Province, a number of municipalities have elected to adopt the so-called “model” by-law prepared at provincial level and made available to those municipalities who wish to make use thereof.
The same applies to Limpopo, where the various municipalities are embroiled in the process of appointing Municipal Planning Tribunals (often at district level where a number of local municipalities co-operate for this purpose). Timelines with regard to the enactment of the local municipal by-laws and the appointment of the MPT’s are vague. The result is that, for the interim period the use of the current Ordinances and related legislation remains the only option.
TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS: SECTION 60 OF SPLUMA
In recent examples in Gauteng, the responsible municipality required of the land development applicant to “prove” that the pending DFA application had indeed progressed to the point claimed by the applicant. Furthermore, the obligation was placed on the applicant to retrieve the provincial Development Tribunal files relevant to the matter under consideration and to file same with the municipality. This has proven to be a logistical nightmare.
There appears to be no proactive arrangement between the municipalities and the office of the prior Provincial Development Tribunal to procure DFA files relevant to the affected municipal jurisdiction, so as to facilitate a speedy conclusion to these matters.
Also, it appears that different municipalities approach the interpretation of Section 60 of SPLUMA differently, resulting in much frustration on the part of the affected applicants.
The Practice Group is in the process of engaging with the various municipalities to determine the state of play and what may be expected on the part of development applicants in each instance.
The Gauteng Department of Economic Development has invited tenders from interested service providers to assist in doing research into the manner in which land development applications are received, processed and determined by the various municipalities and, more particularly, to identify obstacles and the causes for delays in concluding such matters within a reasonable time frames.
The tender also requires of the service provider to engage with the various municipalities and to prepare proposals aimed at curing what is generally perceived to be an unreasonable delay associated with the land development process as regulated by the various municipalities. The aim is primarily to shorten the land development process and, thereby, to facilitate and bolster economic development by reducing the associated costs of development, including the time value of money.
On a similar basis, SAPOA has appointed a service provider for virtually the same purpose. The focus is slightly different in that it will concentrate on the impact of delays associated with land development processes on the commercial property development industry. The results of the research in this regard are expected to provide interesting insight into this often talked about topic and the proverbial thorn in the flesh of many a property developer and consulting planner. Watch this space for further feedback.