NEWS

Review Will ‘Curb Illegal Development In City’

“In 2020, it was agreed that a fresh review be carried out in consultation with the Office of the Solicitor-General. This considered feedback from all the initial consultations,”
19 Aug 2021 10:48
Review Will ‘Curb Illegal Development In City’
A sky view of Suva City. Photo: Leon Lord

Illegal developments in Fiji’s cities and towns would be curbed as enforcement powers are given to municipal councils in the draft of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1946 and the Subdivision Act of 1937.

And only accredited people will be able to lodge applications.

Minister for Local Government, Housing and Community Development Premila Kumar, in her ministerial statement, told Parliament that the review aimed at filling in the gaps, which have been created as times have changed, but the law remained the same for seven decades.

“In 2020, it was agreed that a fresh review be carried out in consultation with the Office of the Solicitor-General. This considered feedback from all the initial consultations,” she said.

“The Ministry of Local Government engaged the services of Nadkam Consultants to carry out the review of both Acts.

“A thorough desktop research was undertaken to understand and benchmark international best planning principles and legislations applied in other jurisdictions. These principles have been incorporated in the draft Bill to suit the local planning context in Fiji.”

 

Some of the new inclusions are:

Specifying administration of the proposed Bill to strengthen the operations of the Department of Town and Country Planning and the Municipal or District Councils as local planning authorities to ensure services are more efficient and effective.

Demarcation of the three tiers of planning, commencing from State, regional to local planning at district and municipal levels to facilitate a coordinated holistic, national planning with the participation and contribution of key stakeholders and communities.

Introduction of development control with policies to streamline and fasten the approval process with new mechanisms like pre–assessment of applications, fast tracking approval process by development assessment panel and the use of online service.

Strengthening enforcement to deter illegal developments.

Ms. Kumar. said the proposed Bill would drive substantial changes and clarity in terms of strengthening and modernizing the Department of Town and Country Planning’s approach to service delivery such as to better utilize the online platform to store, receive and process applications electronically to reduce processing timelines.

“It should be noted that illegal developments are rife in some municipalities and even in extended rural boundaries,” she said.

Municipal Councils would have to ensure that developments were not located in areas or zones where it can create public health problems, disturbance, and nuisance to people in the surrounding areas due to the impact of its operation in a place where it is not permitted.

“Development for land subdivisions is not undertaken before development approval is granted. This will deter any negative impacts on the environment and people living around the development site,” she said.

“Buildings are not constructed before approval is granted as it should comply with planning requirements, building regulations for structural safety and public health requirements for the overall safety and well-being of the owner and surrounding Neighbours.”

Another proposed change will see only accredited people being able to lodge building plans.

Ms. Kumar said this was because a high number of sub-standard building applications had been received by municipal councils.

“For example, Suva City Council received over two hundred building applications in 2019 that were deemed substandard. The plans were not drawn to scale, there were issues of structural integrity and detail designs were merely copy and paste,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the existing Town Planning legislation does not provide any form of guidance as to who can lodge building applications.”

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

 



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