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Our Planning System

Published Thursday 9th September, 2004


Photo: Shirley Bahadur

This week we begin a series on our planning system and its impact on property values in the country.

In our country we have the right to own property and this is specified in our Constitution to include the right to enjoyment of property.

For some of us this has come to mean that once we own a property it is ours to do whatever we please and this is the reason for having a planning system.

The purpose of that system is to balance the valid interests of landowners against those of the wider community, including the generations to come, to secure national development.

The role of the planners is twofold—they are responsible for devising policies which will secure the best balance as outlined above and the development control process which obliges those who wish to develop their property to seek the approval of the planners within the framework of those policies.

Owners have the right to enjoy—i.e. develop—their properties but this is mediated by the planning system to ensure that those developments conform to planning policies.

We need to understand that although the system limits everyone’s rights to develop, it has the capacity to produce a better series of outcomes for the entire society by allocating those rights in an efficient fashion.

The Town & Country Planning Division published the Guide to Developers and Applicants for Planning Permission in November 1989. This is an important document which gives advice on the national development policies for most applicants. There are further policies in respect of particular areas or issues.

But the system explained here must be informed by an approach. In turn, that approach must be developed by reference to our problems and opportunities.

What are these vital issues?

Is the continued decline of our city centres inevitable?

Are there planning policies which could slow or reverse the trend of out-of-town development?

In light of the poor quality of our nation’s housing, can the planning system play a role in improving the quality and quantity of affordable housing?

How can the planning system seek the best allocation of scarce taxpayers’ dollars in the improvement of our nation’s infrastructure?

Are our remaining historic buildings important assets or only fit to be demolished?

These are some of the searching questions we would need to answer to develop those policies—what is the kind of country we want to have?

Are we confident in our ability to plan for positive outcomes?

Do we have enough of a social contract that most people will “buy into” the necessity of conforming to planning policies?

Can we achieve a consensus that unauthorised development and land uses are not in our collective interest?

A main source of tension is that planning is a long-term activity—working towards results that may take decades to become evident—which must also contend with today’s immediate demands for development.

The rapid rate of social change to which we are arguably becoming numb is itself heightening the tension on this issue of the different time-horizons.

We are forced to go faster and faster to avoid being consumed by the competition, all as we rush into an increasingly uncertain future.

The only thing we know for sure is that our children’s world will bear little resemblance to anything we can imagine.

Can anyone remember the early days of Westmoorings, Valsayn, Maracas Gardens or Sumadh Gardens? Despite their modest beginnings, these are all desirable areas today.

It is tempting to try predicting the future and naming good areas in which to invest, but even if that was wise, it is not the function of this column.

It is interesting to consider what are the lessons to be learned from our recorded development and how these might be brought into play in creating planning policies for the future.

Those are some of the areas for the development of our nation for 2020.

Next week we continue by examining some key issues on which our land-use planning system must mediate.

Afra Raymond - Property Matters

Planning issues for everyone

Your view—How many times have we seen cases in which someone’s view is blocked by a later development? Should the planning system act to reduce these cases?

That noisy neighbour—Does the planning system have the right to limit the levels and times of noise in residential or even commercial areas? Should it?

The parking problem—Users in the same class can need more parking. For example, an attorney’s office and TSTT’s mobile services have far different carparking requirements. Of course we all understand that TSTT’s office has a far larger number of daily customers, but should such users not be required to provide significantly more parking than a normal office?

Traffic issues—Other types of business can slow down traffic in their area due to the number of deliveries—for example, restaurants and bars. Should the planners be able to improve the traffic flow in that area by restricting the times at which deliveries can be made?