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Bloemfontein highlights national development challenges

Posted On Thursday, 05 July 2012 13:27 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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There is a desperate shortage of affordable rental stock in the Bloemfontein/Manguang Metro area, with flat rentals continuing to rise strongly despite the general weakness of the economy.

Mike SpencerThis must be considered against the general need for densification that goes hand-in-hand with growing urbanisation. One would think that both pragmatically and politically such objective would find a common resonance

However, according to Mike Spencer, a local agent and development consultant, a big cause of this shortage is the result of the local Metro’s limited vision regarding new development 

Although the metro’s policy is in line with the national requirement for densification – in order to make the provision of services less expensive and to increase the opportunity to provide public transport and more affordable rates, etc - little or nothing has been done to allow developers to increase the density of their developments.

Little or no development of flats and apartments has taken place in the Mangaung/Bloemfontein area for more than 30 years as no new sites zoned for flat development have been laid out.  According to Spencer, the current Town Planning Scheme is virtually 'non existent' with a single paper copy available, but 'hidden away', at the municipality. Although zoning certificates can be obtained for single erven, a vision of the future and current zoning uses for areas of the city are unobtainable. Spencer further confirmed with eProp that although Urban Dynamics and other consultants have been appointed to review and develop a proper scheme, the process is plagued with challenges.

He cites an example of just how this is impacting on developers: Town Planning for outlying areas of small holdings in Bainvlei and Bloemfspruit - the only areas where effectively development can take place - have still not been incorporated into the city’s town planning scheme, despite the fact that these Rural Boards were incorporated into Bloemfontein more than 30 years ago.

As such, there is a massive contrast between the density of traditional flat land areas in the city and the current development areas.  In Westdene, where a 1000 sqm site has a coverage of 33.3 % and bulk (FAR ratio) of 1, it effectively means that 1000 sq m of building can be constructed over 3 floors. At 80 sq m per unit this allows for 12 flats per 1000 sq m site or 120 units per ha, and so on. The current density for the Bainsvlei smallholding area is just 20 units per ha which is in total contrast to the Metro’s and national policy of densification.

The lack of any realistic town planning guidelines, the time taken for township development, and the policy of enforcing single erven residential units, is effectively making the cost of development prohibitive.  Spencer maintains "no practical provision is being made for new areas for the building of flats and apartments despite the current shortage of this type of accommodation".

Another cited example is the recent application for a 19 ha site in Rayton. Here the developer was told that high rise flats, which permits a financially viable use of lifts in buildings, would not be allowed and that a further height restriction of 2 floors would apply. The developer was looking at developing the site as 2 ha erven on which 6 storey apartments buildings with lifts would be developed and utilising a footprint of only 15% of the site. This would have allowed 85% of the site to be available for gardens and recreation. Such a design would have given a moderate density of 60 units per ha – three times what is currently allowed and half of what is allowed in older areas. Effectively the two storey limitation will again force the developer into constructing sprawled buildings offering very little recreational space.

Spencer concludes that there clearly is a need on a national level to review town planning schemes to ensure that they are up to date; that they provide for the real needs of the communities that they serve; and that they allow for the best use of limited available land. Importantly, Town Planning Schemes must be made easily available to the public and business alike, permitting an overview of the planning of towns and cities, thereby encouraging developers to apply 'best-use' principles. Importantly, township applications and rezonings should be viewed individually and not necessarily be limited by blanket or 'blue-planning' policy.

eProp submits that lack of clarity on development guidelines and inadequate or ineffective town planning schemes, places additional risk and pressure for corruption to occur, something that SA is desperately trying to steer away from.

Last modified on Monday, 19 May 2014 09:23

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