opinionBy Francis Gichuhi
In the past few years, the City Council of Nairobi and other local authorities around the city have been quite active in enforcing by-laws on the built environment.
This emphasis on physical planning, and more so on building plans approvals, is a step ahead in curbing the number of buildings that collapse owing to inappropriate construction methods.
However, while these local authorities - which include Ol Kejuado, Mavoko, Kiambu, Ruiru and Thika besides the CCN - have upped their efforts to enforce the by-laws, the gesture is marred by lethargy and bureaucracy to the extent that obtaining construction approvals becomes an uphill task for developers.
These hurdles have continued to slow this process unrelentingly, that the least possible time taken is three weeks on average.
Developers end up making countless trips to the local authorities' offices which are obviously time wasting.
Yet, this problem can effectively be tackled by adopting online methods for construction permits approvals. For instance, we have developed a platform that can be accessed by the local authorities for free on this link: www.a4architect.com/2013/02/15/online-plan-approvals/
This not only shortens the time taken in delivering and processing the approvals to the councils, but also saves on the commute costs.
The CCN has lately taken up the online approval process through a portal dubbed the e-Construction Permit. Other local authorities ought to take cue and either create their own portals or use ours for free.
Use of online portals to approve building plans will make it easier and cost-effective for county governments to raise revenue since developers would conveniently apply for approvals without the thought of avoiding this process crossing their minds.
At present, there are quite a number of buildings in and around Nairobi that have been built without requisite approvals, which may be attributed to inefficiency of the construction permits application and approval process.
On average, a permanent building costs not less than Sh0.5 million to put up. This therefore means that the builder would not have afforded the fee for the permits for them to build without approvals. It is basically an issue of developers weighing the time wastage and inconveniences at the councils that they decide to risk it.
It is therefore time that the incoming county governments create enabling environments for builders to operate in. This will create a win-win situation that will ensure developers adhere to the by-laws as stipulated by respective county governments, and that the latter get their due revenues from building plans approvals.
This would also go a long way in ensuring that we create sustainable neighbourhoods in line with the national and county spatial planning regulations.
Gichuhi is an architect and principal consultant at A4architect.com.