A Critical Reflection on Urban Spatial Planning Practices and Outcomes in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Research paper by D. J. du Plessis

Indexed on: 27 Jul '13Published on: 27 Jul '13Published in: Urban Forum


The spatial planning and policy framework and associated implementing tools in South Africa have undergone fundamental changes since the onset of the democratic era in 1994. The effectiveness and influence of urban spatial planning on restructuring South African cities are however increasingly being questioned and there remains a surprising paucity of empirical evidence to evaluate the impact of these plans. Seven key challenges are identified as impacting on the effectiveness of urban spatial planning in the democratic era. The responses to these challenges as reflected by the urban spatial plans of a cross-section of cities indicate moderate levels of progress with improving the horizontal and vertical alignment of spatial planning processes and with the integration of sustainability principles into spatial planning. Some limited improvement was noted with the understanding of the urban space economy and the alignment of infrastructure development and capital investment with spatial planning. However, very little progress is evident with the principle of physical and social economic integration of cities, considering the informal sector in mainstream spatial planning processes, and with the use of appropriate indicators and quantified targets to monitor the implementation and impact of spatial plans. The application of innovative spatial and statistical techniques will not only greatly enhance the understanding of these issues, but will also provide the basis for formulating appropriate and robust indicators and targets to monitor the impact of spatial plans.