Programme Director, Mr Tim Modise,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Honourable Premier, thank you for inviting us to participate in this important dialogue.
This initiative of the Gauteng Provincial Government to develop a new Spatial Development Framework (SDF) to achieve decisive spatial transformation is welcome and timeous. This dialogue takes place at a time when there is an urgent need for consistency within government on policy and actions, as well as the need to strengthen collaborative planning and integrated delivery.
It takes place as we are finalising the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF), the rollout of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), and the discussion about the proposed mega-projects, to name just a few.
The IUDF emphasises the importance of strategic spatial planning and integrated urban planning as key levers for spatial transformation.
The organizers of this Summit have indicated that one of the key objectives of this Summit is to open up new avenues of thinking and debate.
This should be done within the context and guidelines provided by the National Development Plan (NDP):
“South Africa needs to rethink the urban to face the future challenges. We must grapple with this task and deal intelligently with social exclusion, environmental threats, economic inefficiencies, logistical bottlenecks, urban insecurity, decaying infrastructure and the impacts of new technologies.”
The National Development Plan’s prescripts on future human settlements include: “(i) contain and possibly reverse urban sprawl, (ii) create sustainable human settlements, (iii) focus new urban development (in particular affordable housing) around public transport corridors and economic nodes, (iv) create economic hubs within historically black townships that have sufficient market size, integrate townships into wider economic functioning localities, upgrade informal settlements where appropriate, (vii) give more attention to the design and quality of urban public space, and (viii) ensure that state funding does not support the further provision of non-strategic housing investments in poorly located areas.”
It is time to overcome the inadequacy of progress in respect of the spatial transformation of our cities and more urgently and assertively address the stubborn persistence of spatial patterns enforced in the apartheid years.
But we should be careful to:
1. Acknowledge the progress made in the past two decades
2. Frankly admit our shortcomings
3. Understand the links between the short-term imperatives and the long-term implications of planning
4. Shift our approach to proactive planning
5. Keep our debate as concrete and action-orientated as possible
6. At the same time, recognise that the final shape of our environment is determined by a complex set of factors that unfold over time.
And finally, it is important to recognise that spatial change is a long-term process. It requires commitment and discipline to stay with the plan, whilst being both iterative and flexible to respond to changing times.
I do want to mention two key aspects of the way in which the Apartheid city spatial form affected development opportunity. In my view any discussion of ‘new’ ways of thinking about spatial restructuring of South African cities needs to keep these two aspects firmly in mind.
The first is the question of threshold buying power. Threshold buying power refers to the ability of a community to support activities, which provide amenities and opportunities in their community. Retail and service industries depend on the buying power of the communities in which they are located and those who regularly pass through the communities. Because apartheid townships were homogeneously poor and disadvantaged, and because people were locked into what were effectively spatial ghettos, there were very few businesses in townships providing desired goods and services. More crucially, there were few opportunities for people to start businesses or to get jobs in businesses that had been created. These opportunities had to be sought elsewhere. The spatial legacy that apartheid leaves in this regard is stubborn.
The second aspect is spatial isolation. The critique of masses of people being located in far-flung townships far away from consumption and production opportunities is well known. Thus not only were people confined to low-income areas with little internal buying power, but these areas were located a long distance from other places of opportunity in the city.
Thus the post-apartheid “plan” for the restructuring of South African cities stresses the need to find a way to give the masses better access to economic opportunities and buying power on the one hand, and to reducing the impacts of spatial isolation on the other. In terms of the plan, this is to be achieved firstly by integrating the disparate parts of South African cities via the introduction of efficient and affordable quality public transport systems. Secondly, it is to be achieved by creating thresholds of buying power along corridors of opportunity.
Thirdly, new affordable and mixed income housing opportunities are to be injected into the city fabric in good opportunity locations along the corridors. This implies the densification of the spaces around the corridors (implying more medium and high rise opportunities).
Fourthly, further sprawl of South Africa is to be contained. This spatial transformation model is accorded importance in the National Development Plan, which asserts that jobs, housing and transport can be used to promote urban restructuring.
This approach has over the past twenty years become something of a consensus among academics and policy makers.
But recently there has been evidence of challenges to this consensus. The essence of this challenge is that progress in implementing the compact city model has been slow. This is seen as a function of high land prices (which are in turn related to compaction), the high cost of infrastructure needed, the design of housing subsidies, the lack of local government capacity, the lack of appropriate national support and of resistance to restructuring, which finds expression via the regulatory processes that govern our land use processes (e.g. rezoning processes, dealing with land use rights embedded in land use schemes, etc.). This in turn has led to the positing of more decentralised models of city growth.
It is also worth noting that there have been examples in our history of attempts to create new cities within existing metropolitan constellations. Under the apartheid regime, huge incentives were provided to attract private investment to so-called de-concentration points around the metropolitan areas such as Atlantis near Cape Town; Babelegi, Ekangala and Bronkhorstspruit near Pretoria). Such efforts failed, and their legacy is places that have no real economic base and no real amenity. Not only are the threshold buying capacities of the people who are there very low, but they are more isolated spatially than people living in the old townships. Of course the forces driving location decisions of firms change over time and in response to different contexts. But it is important to keep our history in mind.
The key considerations in any model of spatial management of cities are:
reduce travel costs and distances that continue to perpetuate poverty and inequality among the poorest members of our society;
prevent further development of housing in marginal locations that characterises most of our post-apartheid investments,
increase urban densities and promotes mixed land uses to reduce sprawl,
connect various places and improves access to public transport and other social and economic opportunities, and
shift jobs and investment towards dense peripheral townships.
In a modelling exercise undertaken by the Financial and Fiscal Commission, it was found that “over 10 years, a sprawling city will cost R57 billion more than a compact city, equal to 1.4% of projected GDP (Report titled “Economic and fiscal costs of inefficient land-use patterns). What this basically means is that fragmented cities are bad for economic efficiency and growth.
Towards a more collaborative approach to effect the change we want to see
Various levels of government play a critical role in spatial transformation. Spatial transformation or urban restructuring is not a task that can be left to cities alone, or to any single sphere of government for that matter. The constitutional allocation of powers and functions mean that all spheres shape the urban space, either through their policies, plans or actual investments. Moreover, investment decisions by the private sector are also crucial. Restructuring the city space and redressing the current urban inefficiencies, therefore, calls for a systematic and collaborative approach between various levels of government and non- government partners.
In looking at the role of provinces and municipalities in promoting spatial integration in our cities, the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act of 2013 is an important point of departure. Dealing with provinces first, the Act requires all provinces to develop a provincial spatial development framework dealing with issues of provincial significance which municipalities have to conform with (subject to the recognition of the constitutional weight given to municipalities in doing the planning for their own areas). SPLUMA also makes provision for provinces to coordinate and harmonise the SDFs of abutting municipalities and deal with conflicts arising therefrom. Moreover, the Premier of a province may identify areas of provincial interest, in terms of which provincial legislation or frameworks must apply. These powers do give provinces important opportunities and responsibilities in ensuring that our cities, or our city systems/regions are spatially integrated.
Schedule 4 of the Constitution, regional planning and development is a concurrent national and provincial function. “Region” here, should be interpreted in several ways. Firstly, it means the provincial administrative boundary/geographical area; secondly, a specific functional geographic area within the province; and thirdly a cross-provincial functional geographic area. The emergence of city-regions and other growth management zones requires proactive planning and infrastructure alignment by the province. In Gauteng, this role is more critical considering the three metropolitan areas as well as the other cities.
a) A key function of provinces is to facilitate inter-municipal cooperation to strengthen horizontal alignment: This requires facilitating alignment of plans and investments between the affected municipalities. This is not a task that can be left for municipalities to coordinate among themselves, but requires provincial facilitation. This should facilitate complementarity in a way that strengthens the competitive and comparative advantage of each municipality, as opposed to competition in order to win a zero sum game.
b) As far as the role of ensuring vertical alignment of city plans and provincial plans and investments, provinces can provide broad policy principles and targets, but the determination of the locality and the sequencing of the interventions requires alignment with city plans. These provisions apply also to national plans and investments.
A crucial point to note is that our constitution does not establish a hierarchical relationship between spheres. There, are substantial provisions in legislation, which allow provinces to coordinate the planning efforts of municipalities but not to be directive (unless this can be shown to be in the provincial interest). There is a lot of potential for divergence between spheres, and proactive steps should be taken to avoid it. For example, there is significant potential for divergence if Gauteng province seeks to pursue a City Region spatial model which is consistent with dispersion whilst its underpinning metropolitan municipalities are pursuing a compaction strategy. Proactively avoiding contradictions involve ongoing consultation, discussion, accommodation and the reaching of agreement.
Spatial integration in an across-city sense is not just about spatial planning. It is also about coordination of service delivery. The recent water supply issues/scarcity in Gauteng, and how Tshwane and Ekurhuleni were affected by high consumption in Johannesburg, show the interdependencies and relationships, which need to be taken into account when planning for the delivery of goods and services in a city-region. The province might have to look at an approach for dealing with this.
Consultation, dialogue and accommodation is not a one-way street, and all spheres have responsibilities in this regard. There is, however, specific points I want to make about municipalities.
The first is that the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the primacy of municipalities in municipal planning does pave the way for the reassertion of the municipal IDP and the municipal SDF as institutional mechanisms for achieving the integration of our cities. It simply increases the weight of the cities, and perhaps this is necessary to make the IDP’s work as cross-sectoral/cross sphere integrators. Secondly, we need to reassert the Integrated Development Plan as a development plan, not just a list of the programmes and projects of sector departments (national, provincial and municipal). The IDP has become a ritual, a careful outlining of what could be done, rather than what must be done. Real integration requires that we keep our development vision firmly in mind when we introduce various interventions and projects. We must restore the connection between the development outcomes and development inputs and outputs.
Reversing the apartheid spatial patterns requires bold and consistent efforts across the various levels of government. It also requires far better collaboration and sticking to the agreed plan. It is therefore quite important that Gauteng is opening up the debate to obtain consensus around the type of urban model to pursue that will radically transform our urban spaces.
In this regard it seems that inter alia, the following are worth considering and debating:
Firstly we need to think about whether or not it is time we arrive at a better balance between eliminating backlogs and investments and looking after existing investments
Secondly, we need to think about new forms/options of housing subsidy, which support the restructuring of our cities.
Thirdly, we need to give thought to innovation in the area of land use regulation, especially insofar as current processes make city restructuring more sluggish than it perhaps need to be.
Fourthly, we need to develop and extend work that is currently being done regarding procedures and tools for coordinating government investments in restructuring zones.
The National Development Plan, reinforced by the IUDF and the further elaboration of the National Spatial Framework should be the overall structure and context within which, and in iterations with which, the provincial and municipal planning should develop.
Virtually all of the metropolitan municipalities have Spatial Development Frameworks which stress restructuring via making nodes and corridors work.
A challenge that must be canvassed thoroughly is the connect between longstanding existing settlements and the “new” nodes and corridors.
Moreover, as previously noted many metros have identified restructuring zones and are using new tools to help coordinate both public and private investment into these areas. This is a significant step forward. Our view is that we should capitalise on these initiatives, and take the next step of densification around the corridors.
Once again, congratulations on this initiative. I trust you will give it the urgency it deserves, – for ultimately, planning is about enhancing the dignity of our people, enhancing their economic well-being and creating an inclusive dynamic that reduces poverty, inequality and unemployment. We still have much to do to achieve social integration and solidarity among our richly diverse nation.
I thank you.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS