10 November 2017

Namibia: Urban Land Approval to Be Decentralised

THE time-consuming and bureaucratic procedures for urban land planning, development, approval and delivery will soon be reduced after proposals to decentralise the processes were made.

Urban development minister Sophia Shaningwa this week introduced the urban and regional bill in parliament aimed at decentralising the bulk of the spatial planning functions from central government to recognised planning authorities.

Once enacted, the proposed law will replace the existing regulations dealing with urban planning.

These are the Township Planning Ordinance of 1954, and the Township and Division of Land Ordinance of 1963.

Shaningwa said the planning approaches were outdated because they were informed by imbalances in access to land and land ownership, as well as "discriminatory planning policies and practices" prevailing from the colonial South African administration.

This hampers the timeous delivery of urban land, hence the need for new legislation to address the past imbalances in respect of access to land as well as to promote national reform objectives, she noted.

Currently, the processes of environmental clearance, planning, land surveying and the proclamation of a township go through different channels of authority; starting with the local authorities, to the township board (TB), then the Namibia Planning and Advisory Board (Nampab) and finally to the line minister's desk.

"This legislative reform will do away with the Namibia Planning and Advisory Board and the Township Board by combining their functions into one body," Shaningwa explained.

She added that if decentralised, the process of planning and the approval of various functions (usually done by Nampab and the Township Board), would effectively address developmental challenges and empower local authorities and regional councils.

"The bill will assist the housing sector to plan pro-actively in the supply of land for development through planning instruments.

"Furthermore, the bill will facilitate the decentralisation of planning to regional councils and local authorities, which will ensure the speedy approval of applications," the minister added.

If the proposed law becomes a reality, the urban development ministry hopes to cut the delays in land application approval processes and planning applications by 60%.

"This bill marks the next step in a long campaign for many committed advocates for a better planning system for the fast provision of affordable housing and well-planned urban areas," Shaningwa noted.

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