Johannesburg - Joburg’s economic development and growth is being stunted by its own development planning department which is “imploding”.
This is what architects, estate agents and agents or runners who assist by going in to submit plans, claim.
They are so desperate and frustrated that they called an urgent meeting last week to discuss the way forward to get the city to speed up the approval of plans, site development plans and rezonings.
About 32 people attended, representing people who had daily dealings with the planning department.
The long delays in getting plans approved appear to be illegal because a city ordinance states that plans have to be approved or disapproved within 30 days of submission.
Spokesman for the group, Willie van Wyk, said the system had virtually collapsed, leaving professionals associated with the industry, developers and people who wanted to purchase or alter a property, frustrated, angry and out of pocket.
“This is detrimental to the city because new buildings and rezonings would bring the city additional revenue,” he said.
The most common complaints were that the computer systems were frequently down, sometimes for days, meaning people had to travel in and out several times before they could submit plans, the resulting cost being passed on to homeowners and developers and buyers and sellers.
The printer that prints plans has been broken for months, leaving many property deals hanging in the balance as buyers could withdraw offers.
“Most banks and buyers these days require plans before they purchase or approve bonds. There is no indication from management when they will get a proper printing machine,” said Van Wyk.
Other complaints are staff shortages; the bad attitude of staff who hold people to ransom by delaying plans if they complain; staff not allocated to specific areas any more, meaning they are not all familiar with every town-planning scheme in the city.
“Areas such as Randburg, Roodepoort and Sandton all have different regulations,” he said.
Often there are no cashiers available to take money.
The bulk contribution calculations which are done by the legal department can take seven to eight months.
Clients cannot submit plans without this figure.
Rezoning and township applications, which bring in huge income for the city, can take up to four years, he said.
“And to add insult to injury, when plans are finally looked at and amendments have to be done, after waiting for months, clients are given 21 days in which to rectify things,” he said.
The group established a committee representing the different sectors of the building environment and they will be making a submission to the city’s section 79 economic planning committee.
They also intend sending a complaint to the president’s office listing their grievances.
The group is looking at issuing a mandamus (court order) to force the city to comply with its ordinance, which stipulates a 30-day turnaround time.
The city did not respond to a request for comment. - The Star