Better urban planning needed by Joburg to cope with rapid expansion‚ experts warn

07 May 2017 - 17:32
By Roxanne Henderson
A file photo of the Johannesburg skyline.
Image: Gallo Images/ Thinkstock A file photo of the Johannesburg skyline.

Johannesburg is tipped to become a mega city by 2030‚ with its population exceeding 10 million‚ but the City is falling short in ensuring proper urban planning and co-ordination‚ experts say.

Dr Walter Musakwa of the University of Johannesburg's Department of Town and Regional Planning said that in Johannesburg planning takes place reactively‚ not proactively‚ not adequately assessing future population growth.

“We need to plan smartly and relearn how to plan for the future. We should have simulations of what future populations should be like.

“The biggest problem is the lack of data for simulation as far as planning for the future is concerned.

“When you plan for future growth you should also plan for an integrated public transport system. If you compare Johannesburg with Barcelona or Vienna there's a huge difference with how roads are designed for public transport – for buses‚ trams and non-motorised transport.”

The rapid expansion in Fourways is a classic example of poor town planning.

“Those developments there should never have been built‚ but we cannot blame the developers. The municipality should make sure proper planning has been done.”

Last week the roads in the northern Johannesburg suburb were gridlocked as construction restricted lanes and caused severe delays.

The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport said that roads in the area were being upgraded to alleviate congestion caused by a large number of residential developments in recent years. Its advice to motorists was to remain patient until the work is completed.

“[Telling people to be patient] is a political statement‚ not a planning statement. There should be ways of finding relief valves to avoid a situation where traffic is at a standstill and people cannot get to work on time‚” said Professor Mfaniseni

Sihlongonyane‚ Director of Planning at the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits University.

Gauteng has five multibillion-rand in-development city projects which are currently being constructed‚ including Waterfall Estate in Midrand‚ where the biggest mall in Africa recently opened‚ and Modderfontein‚ where a Chinese company is planning to house an estimated 30‚000 families.

These are among the developments that will see Johannesburg’s population soar from 4.4 million as measured by Stats SA in 2011.

“City needs to plan ahead‚ which it has done. The challenge is that plans are not always coordinated and resources for implementation are not always available‚” said Sihlongonyane.

“When Greenstone was being developed 10 years ago no one knew you would see the kind of traffic you see now on Modderfontein Road. One of the problems is there is no school in the area so parents must leave the area for schools.

“A school was included in the plan for the area but the Department of Education has not had the funds to build one – so it's a question of coordination.”

But even when planning has been done the outcome cannot always be controlled.

Sihlongonyane said: “The problem is not that they don't have the vision for taking this forward. The problem is population migrations at a rate which is much faster than the ability of the City of Johannesburg can cope with in providing facilities.

“The way development occurs‚ you are not always sure of the impact. There will always be unintended consequences. You should know that you cannot always plan and control everything.”