The Urban Development Boundary as a Planning Tool for Sustainable Urban Form: The South African Situation
Authors: E. J. Cilliers
It is the living conditions in the cities that determine the future of our livelihood. “To change life, we must first change space"- Henri Lefebvre. Sustainable development is a utopian aspiration for South African cities (especially the case study of the Gauteng City Region), which are currently characterized by unplanned growth and increasing urban sprawl. While the reasons for poor environmental quality and living conditions are undoubtedly diverse and complex, having political, economical and social dimensions, it is argued that the prevailing approach to layout planning in South Africa is part of the problem. This article seeks a solution to the problem of sustainability, from a spatial planning perspective. The spatial planning tool, the urban development boundary, is introduced as the concept that will ensure empty talk being translated into a sustainable vision. The urban development boundary is a spatial planning tool that can be used and implemented to direct urban growth towards a more sustainable form. The urban development boundary aims to ensure planned urban areas, in contrast to the current unplanned areas characterized by urban sprawl and insufficient infrastructure. However, the success of the urban development boundary concept is subject to effective implementation measures, as well as adequate and efficient management. The concept of sustainable development can function as a driving force underlying societal change and transformation, but the interface between spatial planning and environmental management needs to be established (as this is the core aspects underlying sustainable development), and authorities needs to understand and implement this interface consecutively. This interface can, however, realize in terms of the objectives of the planning tool – the urban development boundary. The case study, the Gauteng City Region, is depicted as a site of economic growth and innovation, but there is a lack of good urban and regional governance, impacting on the design (layout) and function of urban areas and land use, as current authorities make uninformed decisions in terms of development applications, leading to unsustainable urban forms and unsustainable nodes. Place and space concepts are thus critical matters applicable to planning of the Gauteng City Region. The urban development boundary are thus explored as a planning tool to guide decision-making, and create a sustainable urban form, leading to better environmental and living conditions, and continuous sustainability.
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