The Importance of Integrated Urban Planning Development in South Africa

Urban planning services, as offered by urban or town planners in South Africa, include consultancy, guidance, and cooperation with policymakers, local authorities, and city councils to ensure sustainable and integrated urban development.

Due to the unequal development policies and city infrastructure designs of the previous government and professionals tasked with the provision of town planning services, segregated city development took place in the past. People often lived far from their workplaces. The very same people had to make use of public transport systems, which became overloaded. With workers required to be at their places of work from as early as six or seven in the morning, the very same people had to get up in the early hours of the morning to travel for an hour or more to reach their places of employment. Although the disparate policies that have created this segregated development are no longer in existence, the challenge of building integrated cities and to reverse engineer these realities remain.

The Role of Urban Planners

Urban planners of today focus all the more on development planning that makes provision for people being closer to work, services being more accessible, and the urban sprawl being contained. On a government level, planning services offered by the professional town planners are important to help create improved access to city hubs, better living conditions, and more sustainable cities in South Africa.

As part of the services offered, town planners help with the creation of city development strategies. These strategies are long-term action plans, focussing on helping the urban areas prepare for growth. This is important because natural resources must be responsibly used to improve the well-being of the people in the urban areas and sustain economic activities with minimum effect on the environment.

Simply reacting to changing urbanisation patterns or crisis periods is not enough. Long-term plans must be set in place to allow for the development of new human settlements near places of work, close to important amenities such as hospitals, places of worship, educational institutions, transport hubs, and recreational sites. Although urban planning services include mapping, infrastructure development planning, and more, the focus now includes the creation of cities that will be just as relevant in their design three decades from now as they are today.

What it comes down to is that the cities must be designed with consideration of factors such as technology usage, water availability, proper stormwater drainage, electricity supply needs, transportation requirements, and more. Although such factors have always been part of urban planning services, the challenge in South Africa is how to move away from the segregation designs of the past to create fully representative cities.

People still have to travel far to get to work. At the same time, young children have to get to school and back home, using various transport systems. The recent health crisis has highlighted the problem where workers often have to travel from one transport hub to another before they get on transport vehicles to their work destinations. Some are on the road for up to three hours a day. The issue is compounded over weekends when many of the smaller transport services are not offered to particular areas.

When it comes to modern urban development in South Africa, city councils and policymakers benefit from the professional services offered by experienced town planners. Such town planners have the technologies available to collect relevant geographical and other data and to create reports and maps to show density, existing infrastructure, resources, zones, and more. They also use the data for projections, proposals, and possible outcomes to determine the impact of human settlement and economic activity on particular areas.

Challenges such as urban regeneration, development of transport nodes, creation of corridors, prevention of the urban sprawl, allowing for higher densities, and more are addressed through the urban planning services offered by professional city planners. Although zones allowing for residential only, industrial only, and commercial land-use will remain important, more and more mixed-use zones will need to be created to allow for integrated development. To this end, the expertise and range of services from experienced urban planners become exceptionally valuable for policymakers and city councils.

Get in touch with The Practice Group for more information about our range of urban planning services to help with the development of integrated cities in South Africa.