How Town Planning Consultants Can Help with Zoning and Property Purchases

The Practice Group offers expert town planning, consulting, and related services to private individuals, developer groups, corporate entities, and municipalities in South Africa. One of the many topics we provide consulting services on is that of rezoning, as well as subdividing a property. As town planning consultants, we handle the processes on behalf of clients, helping them to avoid costly pitfalls.

But, let us look at zoning and how it affects property. In essence, zoning governs the land usage rights on a particular property. City planners, along with key stakeholders, decide on zones for particular land usage such as industrial, commercial, residential, and mixed usage. If you want to run a commercial business in a residential area, you first need to make sure that the property is zoned for business usage. If not, then you must apply for rezoning of the property, which can take anything from a few months to two or three years to complete, depending on the particular situation.

Likewise, you may have bought property and now want to sub-divide the property in order to sell the one part. However, you cannot simply draw a new border and then hand in a sub-division application. There are many factors to consider and the correct procedures must be followed. For one, it is important to understand that there may be restrictions such as the minimum size of a piece of property. In addition, access to the property must be ensured. Building lines and the likes must also be considered.

If you want to buy a piece of property with the intention of using it for a different purpose than for which it is currently used and zoned, you should make the offer to purchase subject to approval by the local authority regarding the rezoning of the property, and getting approval for the land use for which you intend to use it. The rezoning application entails a formal submission to the relevant local authority that includes the motivation report. It must also include the plans of the current property, intended changes, or new building plans. In addition, you must advertise in a local newspaper your intention to apply for rezoning and call for any objections. The local authority will review the application, motivation report, supporting documents, and any objections received. Both the council committee and the provincial committee must approve the rezoning application.

If you want to sub-divide the property into two or more independent full-title properties, you will also need the help of a town planning consultant. The application must be submitted to the city council. The land surveyor will need to stipulate the borders and provide the land survey diagram. The architect’s plans and report, as well as the approval of neighbours, will be needed before the sub-division will be allowed.

Different Zones

When looking at property for a specific usage purpose, consult a zoning map or ask for assistance in this regard from a town planning consulting firm or expert. The main categories of zoning include residential, business, and industrial in the urban area. Each of the categories has its own sub-categories. When it comes to residential properties, the categories are Residential 1, 2, 3, and 4. The maximum land area for building and the coverage, and dwelling density are factors that play a role.

Residential, for instance, is where only one dwelling per stand can be allowed with coverage of the property, for example, limited to 40%. If the property owner gets the required permission to build another dwelling on the property, the maximum coverage for all the buildings may still not be more than 40% of the property. However, if a double storey is allowed, you can have two storeys covering a total of 40% of the stand. Residential 2 makes provision for up to 20 dwellings to be erected per hectare and is thus suitable zoning for cluster complexes. Residential 3 allows for density of up to 40 dwellings on a hectare and Residential 4 allows for up to 120 dwellings per hectare which makes the property suitable for a block of flats or an apartment building.

The complexity of the zones as discussed above already makes for potential pitfalls when one purchases property with the aim of using it for another purpose than what it is used for at present. We recommend making use of our town planning consultancy services also when it comes to property due diligence, zoning, and subdivision applications, to avoid those costly pitfalls.