Delays slow development

The City of Windhoek has been sitting on hundreds of rezoning applications, much to the frustration of developers who find the process painfully slow.

13 September 2017 | Local News

In a self-described military-style effort to avoid a potential loss of “tens of millions of Namibian dollars” the City of Windhoek this year hastily processed 217 rezoning applications which had been part of a backlog dating back to 2010.

Minutes from the August City of Windhoek council meeting show that slow progress in processing 352 rezoning applications had “created huge frustration in the industry”, at a time when development could play a crucial role for the city's prospects.

The council documents indicate that the municipality is partly blaming the delays on the limitations of the existing policy areas, and City officials have recommended an “urgent re-evaluation of the policy areas and its implementation.”

Four applications from 2010, nine from 2011, 14 from 2012, 17 from 2013, 59 from 2014, 107 from 2015 and 142 dating back to last year, have led to mounting frustration among developers and others.

City officials, as per the council minutes, noted that a “major concern” was that there were no provisions allowing the City to “use policy areas as a development guideline tool” and a number of problems have plagued rezoning application processes to the detriment of the City's town planning schemes.

Policy areas are areas that have been identified as multi-purpose land use areas, where rezoning applications in theory can be approved quicker, but industry insiders say that some applications take several years to be processed.

However, the municipality noted that rezoning applications in these policy areas “do not guarantee automatic approval” although many, including consultants and applicants, “regard it as an automatic approval” which has led to numerous appeals at Namibia Planning and Advisory Board (Nampab).

As a result of this, the City claims that development in regards to land-use changes and development potential is being “determined by developers, consultants and some property speculators” and not by the municipality.

“Put another way – the City of Windhoek is no longer guiding land-use management.”



Do the work

In a final attempt push for the processing of hundreds of outstanding applications, members of the Namibia Institute of Town and Regional Planning (NITRP) earlier this year submitted an amendment scheme on behalf of the City, in an attempt to bypass the City's urban policy team and take the matter to a higher authority.





NITRP approached Nampab, the authority that is authorised to approve such an amendment scheme should the option be viewed as necessary by the relevant ministry.

Subsequently, Nampab advertised the proposed amendment scheme and set a 19 September deadline for the City of Windhoek to object and to respond to the scheme, which contains 217 of the 352 outstanding applications.

According to the city council, the submission of the amendment scheme, and its potential approval by Nampab, could have led to a number of complications, in addition to a potential “significant loss of income amounting to several tens of millions of Namibian dollars.”

The minutes state that the potential consequences of the amendment scheme may have led to the approval of applications which the City, following its guidelines, would have declined.

The council also said there was a risk that applications would be approved, despite objections from the public.

Another risk was the approval for “rezoning without adequate supporting infrastructure” and rezoning outside of the existing provisions of the Windhoek Town Planning Scheme.

In response, the municipality compiled an action plan that revolved around “a military-style exercise” aimed at dealing with all 217 applications prior to next week's deadline.

The minutes state that an action plan was crucial, and successful.

The City noted that it was “highly unlikely” that Nampab would have accepted any further delays and that Nampab would more than likely have approved the amendment scheme as submitted by NITRP, leading to a number of potential complications as listed by the City.

According to officials at the municipality, the recent events and the submission of the amendment scheme highlighted that “there is a very real and urgent need” for amending the municipality's town planning methods.

“This is considered an absolutely critical issue that requires urgent resolution to regain control over development and as such it is imperative that a proper policy areas study be concluded as soon as possible.”

A number of recommendations were approved by the council in order to address the issue, including a policy area study.



Quick work after slow progress

The “military-style” action plan led to the municipality approving 64 applications plus 95 applications on condition of minor changes. A total of 58 could not be approved.

The approved rezoning applications will now be submitted to Nampab for approval.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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