Despite a gradual decline in the annual population growth rate since the mid-’90s, the overall trend in South Africa continues to be an upward one and, based upon UN estimates, the figure stood at 55 323 389 on April 3, 2017. Of these, more than 35 million, or almost 65%, are living in the nation’s towns and cities. Many who have fled their rural origins in search of work are now housed in sub-standard accommodation while others live in informal settlements on the outskirts, creating a growing challenge for town-planning and development specialists, particularly in Gauteng.
While there is clearly an urgent need to make good the housing shortage, this is not a simple matter of acquiring a suitable piece of land and building a few rows of affordable homes. If it is to be successful, any plan must focus on the ultimate goal, which is to build a new community. This can only be achieved by identifying each of the features that are deemed essential to ensure an acceptable quality of life, and devising practical and cost-effective ways in which to fulfil them. A typical new township, for instance, should make provision for commercial as well as residential premises, so as to eliminate the need to travel lengthy distances for, at least, the more essential, day-to-day products and services. If it is large enough, there may be a requirement to include facilities such as a school and a church, while some shared green space, a community centre and possibly a sports stadium can all serve to encourage interaction and to promote the feeling that its residents rent or own a share in something of greater value than mere bricks and mortar.
An equally important component of the town planning and development function is to ensure continuity with external road networks. Residents of the new estate should be able to travel freely to all points within its boundaries while, wherever possible, also having reasonable access to the major roads and highways that connect them to important facilities such as airports, rail terminals, and hospitals. In addition, given the need for South Africa to reduce its carbon footprint, there is a growing need for the nation’s urban planners to promote more sustainable building practices, along with the use of eco-friendly construction materials. Despite such policies, the need to remain within a projected budget must continue to remain a major concern.
Drawing up a plan would be little more than compiling a wish list without the advice of a variety of specialists as well, of course, as an indication of the client’s needs. In the case of a township project, that client will be a local municipality, while for a golf estate or hotel resort, it is more likely to be a private developer. In either case, it will be the role of the body responsible for the town planning and development to determine the client’s vision and goals regarding the proposed project prior to drafting an appropriate plan for preliminary appraisal.
Conjuring a vision and setting the relevant goals alone can present a challenge for a committee but devising the best ways to transform such a dream into a reality requires an even greater capacity for vision. In addition, it also requires the close collaboration of experts in a wide range of supporting fields. For example, these could include surveying, architecture, construction, logistics, and power reticulation. In order to provide the client with meaningful budget predictions, the assistance of an experienced quantity surveyor will also prove invaluable.
Recognised across South Africa as an industry leader is a town planning and development specialist that boasts an extensive portfolio of impressive and innovative projects. Many have been completed with great success, while others, being longer-term ventures, are still in progress.
That portfolio consists of more than a dozen residential townships and more than double that number of shopping, lifestyle, and business estates, not to mention industrial parks and infrastructure projects for industries such as SA Breweries, Iscor, Arcelor Mittal, and Coca Cola. Known as The Practice Group, the award-winning Pretoria-based firm was established in 1986 and is a member of the South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN) and the South African Association of Consulting Professional Planners (SAACPP). We are also the preferred choice of many seeking a town planning and development consultancy.