Surveyors object to reservation of work for planners

February 13th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT


by Clare van Zwieten, editor

Clare van Zwieten

Clare van Zwieten

Land surveyors are up in arms about a notice issued by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in November last year which called for comments on the Draft Regulations for the Planning Profession Act (Act No. 36 of 2002). Land surveyors’ objections to the draft regulations are focused mainly on the exclusive reservation of work for professional and technical planners and the requirement for existing land surveying professionals to obtain certification from the South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN) to undertake specified planning work.

The proposals in the draft regulations have stirred outrage in the land surveying profession which has traditionally carried out work that, once the bill is enacted, will be reserved exclusively for town planners. Many land surveyors see the draft regulations as impacting on their right to practice as land surveyors. They strongly object to the proposed restriction of current land surveyors, and the prevention of future land surveyors, from undertaking functions that have been part of their normal professional duties for decades.

Over the last hundred years or so, surveyors across South Africa have advised and assisted property owners with the preparation and submission of applications for a wide range of planning work related to land and development rights on land. These include building line departures, special consents, removal of restrictions, permission to subdivide or consolidate, as well as servitudes and rezonings. For as long as land surveying has been recognised as a profession, it has been commonly accepted that these tasks are a part of a professional land surveyor’s duties. In addition, land surveyors have also been instrumental in creating the large volume of legislation controlling land use and development, as well as the submission and administration of applications.

The draft regulations also seek to remove the individual land owner’s right to make their applications on their own behalf. Many land surveyors assist land owners, who are unable to afford the full professional services of town planners and land surveyors, with their individual applications for consent. The draft regulations are seen as depriving land owners of their fundamental right to deal with their own land development issues and forcing them to make use of town planners when it is not necessary. This is viewed as being restrictive to development, particularly in rural areas where people are not able to afford the services of town planning professionals let alone find one in their area. In addition, if planners are to be involved in minor subdivision, rezoning, relaxations and so on, the cost to the owner or client will make it uneconomic to proceed, leading to even more unsolved land problems.

Property development is one of the main drivers of growth in South Africa, and housing delivery and rural development have long been identified by government as priority projects. How will the proposed work regulations assist government in meeting its targets in these areas when the draft regulations will disqualify many skilled professionals from doing the work required to drive property development and housing delivery?

The draft regulations provide no reasons as to why work reservation for the planning profession is necessary. In the absence of these reasons, many land surveyors are of the opinion that the motivation behind the draft regulations is jobs for planners, which they believe to be inherently anti-competitive.

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