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Home » October 2012

Urban LandMark participates in Roundtable discussion on law reform in planning

A number of crucial legislative and reform processes pertaining to the planning sector are currently under way in South Africa. As a contribution to fostering debate around these key developments, the Community Law Centre (University of the Western Cape), the South African Cities Network, Urban LandMark and the Department for Rural Development and Land Reform organised a Roundtable session, which took place in Cape Town in August 2012.

The session brought together officials and planners from various provinces and municipalities, representatives of the Portfolio Committee, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to exchange ideas and build some common understanding of the issues.


As stated in the Roundtable report, the legislative and reform processes currently under way entail the drafting of law and reviewing of planning practice to determine how best to harmonise the planning roles of local, provincial and national government.

"The key legislative development underpinning this is the Spatial Planning and Land use Management Bill (SPLUMB) 2012. If enacted into law, the Bill will replace, amongst other laws, the Development Facilitation Act, a key instrument used to regulate spatial planning and land use management in South Africa," the report states.

The report points out that while SPLUMB is a crucial component of the land-use management framework, it cannot solve all of the challenges encountered in practice.

"The broad constitutional competency of planning is shared by all three spheres of government. For this reason (and in the absence of national legislation strictly defining the parameters of the competence of planning for each sphere), various provinces are concurrently preparing or amending their own planning legislation. The harmonisation of these national and provincial efforts is thus a key challenge," the report says.

Discussions at the Roundtable

Lechesa Tsenoli, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, delivered a keynote address in which he emphasised the urgency of the reform of planning legislation and highlighted the National Infrastructure Plan as the background to the reforms.

Advocate Geoff Budlender SC provided an input in which he stressed the move away from a hierarchical approach to planning, with local government at the bottom of that hierarchy. The Constitution now gives planning responsibilities to each sphere of government. He also warned against 'overwriting' legislation as this impairs decision making.

After this, the group discussed four topics: securing national and provincial interests while devolving to local government; providing an effective remedy against municipal decisions; the impact of reform on capacity; and harmonising development approvals across sectors.

Urban LandMark's presentation at the Roundtable focused on identifying the difficult legal questions arising from SPLUMB. It also identified specific issues that have to be addressed in the revised SPLUMB, including the following:

  • Narrowing down the definition of what constitutes the national interest
  • Narrowing down the definition of what constitutes a provincial interest in a) a spatial planning process and b) a land-use decision
  • Articulating clearly an approach to provincial (or national) intervention in the spatial planning and land-use management functions of local government
  • Clarifying the status of the SPLUMB in areas under traditional leadership, especially in peri-urban areas.