Challenges for Town Development Planners in South Africa

Town development planning entails control over the current development and new developments, in addition to the strategic plan for the management of resources to meet the community’s future needs. It is a dynamic process that changes, as the community’s town development needs change.

Town planners play an integral role in town development planning, as they draft the strategies and work closely with communities to ensure a balance in the human, socio-economic, and environmental development of an area. They must consider cultural influences, environmental health, human health, community needs, economic viability, and overall quality of life when they perform town development planning activities. The idea is to develop the urban landscapes in the correct relation to the size of the population, thus ensuring that the various needs of the communities can be met.

As town development planning cannot be done in isolation, the town planners work closely with other professionals, such as land surveyors, quantity surveyors, engineers, developers, environmental specialists, lawyers, economists, architects, and politicians.

Urban areas are rarely designed from scratch, as most of the towns and cities in the country have already been established. One of the challenges that town development planning professionals face is to address changing community needs in towns and cities developed in the past for societies of the past. Rapid urbanisation today has brought new challenges. The influx of people from other countries in the world in the hope to make a living in the cities has also brought about challenges.

Water resources and supply services in various cities in South Africa are simply not sufficient to cater to the large numbers of people now living in the cities. New infrastructure for water management and distribution is required. The same applies to pressure on electricity suppliers. In addition, urban sprawl takes place because of a growing number of informal settlements on the outskirts of cities. The effects on the environment can eventually be devastating. Large-scale water pollution takes place to the level that potable drinking water regulations must be in place, simply because the infrastructures of the South African cities cannot handle the large numbers of people.

Town development planning is done to address these and many other issues. It thus becomes clear that the planning must be flexible enough to address changing needs and to minimise the effect on the natural resources. Another challenge is that of sufficient transport infrastructure. Traffic congestion is becoming a major problem in many cities of South Africa. As more people get cars and the number of taxis increase, it becomes vital to create alternative means of public transport systems to reduce the load on the various roads.

However, reactionary plans are rarely ever successful. Such plans are for crisis management and often lead to more problems. A proactive approach to town development planning is needed. Such planning must be done with sustainability in mind. Only if long-term objectives are set, is it possible to create and sustain urban societies that are healthy, economically strong, politically stable, and emotionally content.

Any scarcity in resources will eventually lead to disruptions in service delivery. This, in turn, can cause social upheaval. In order to ensure a peaceful and well-balanced society the town development planning committees must take the necessary steps to adapt their Integrated Development Plans to reflect the fast-changing societies in the urban landscape.

Urban renewal projects have become important and so has proper land use management. Other areas that must be balanced with the community development needs are that of tourism planning and balancing economic needs with environmental sustainability.

The Role of Professionals

Municipalities need the expertise of town developing experts. Together with them, the councils and ward councils can identify which plans are viable and which ones not. If your municipality’s five-year plan has not delivered what you had in mind, then you will benefit from the town planning expertise of The Practice Group. We have extensive experience in urban and regional planning, strategic planning, and public participation processes. We are able to provide turnkey solutions and guidance for creating sustainable cities in South Africa.

We offer a comprehensive range of town development planning services, including urban and spatial development, land use management, integrated land use and transportation planning, urban renewal and design frameworks, and community projects, to name only a few.