Town Planning Terminology


Town Planning Terminology

South Africa’s Unique Town Planning Terminology and Concepts


⏩ In the field of town planning, South Africa boasts its own distinctive set of terminology and concepts.

⏩ Familiarizing yourself with these terms will help you navigate the intricacies of town planning in the country.

⏩ Below are some common terms and their explanations:


βœ… Spatial planning: This refers to the process of determining how land and resources should be used in a particular area. Spatial planning involves considering factors such as population growth, economic development, environmental protection, and infrastructure needs.

βœ… Zoning: Zoning is the practice of dividing a city or town into different areas or zones, each with its own set of land use regulations. Zoning is used to control the development of an area and to ensure that different land uses are separated from each other.

βœ… Land use rights: In South Africa, land use rights refer to the rights granted to individuals or organizations to use a particular piece of land for a specific purpose. Land use rights can be granted for residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural purposes.

βœ… Town planning scheme: A town planning scheme is a document that outlines the zoning and land use regulations for a particular area. It typically includes maps, diagrams, and other visual aids to help understand the land use regulations and how they apply to a specific area.

βœ… Development plan: A development plan is a document that outlines the long-term vision and goals for the development of a particular area. It typically includes information on land use, infrastructure, transportation, and other factors that affect the development of an area.

βœ… A building line is a boundary set by a local government or other regulatory body that determines the maximum distance a building can be built from the street or other property line. This is often done to ensure that buildings are spaced out in a way that allows for adequate light and air circulation, as well as to maintain a certain aesthetic in the area.

βœ… Coverage refers to the proportion of a specific area that is covered by a particular type of land use, such as buildings or vegetation. It is typically expressed as a percentage and is used to assess the impact of development on the surrounding environment.

βœ… DFA, or the Development Facilitation Act 1995 (Act 67 of 1995), is a South African law that was designed to promote and facilitate sustainable development by simplifying and streamlining the development approval process. It also aims to promote public participation in the development process and to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account.

βœ… A duet unit is a type of housing unit that is typically attached to another unit, sharing at least one common wall. Duet units are often smaller than traditional single-family homes and are often more affordable, making them a popular choice for first-time buyers or those looking to downsize.

βœ… Engineering services contributions are fees that are charged by local governments to developers in order to fund the construction and maintenance of infrastructure and other public facilities. These fees are typically based on the size and type of development, and are used to help offset the costs of providing services such as water, sewer, and roads.

βœ… Environmental authorisation is a type of permit that is required in many countries for any development project that has the potential to impact the environment. This permit is typically issued by an environmental agency and outlines the specific measures that must be taken to mitigate any negative impacts of the development.

βœ… Floor area ratio (FAR) is a measure of the intensity of land use in a specific area. It is calculated by dividing the total floor area of a building by the size of the lot on which it is built. FAR is often used to regulate the density of development in a particular area.

βœ… Gautrans, also known as the Gauteng Department of Transport and Public Works, is the government department responsible for managing and overseeing transportation and public works projects in the Gauteng province of South Africa.

βœ… GDARD, or the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, is the government department responsible for promoting and supporting the agriculture and rural development industries in the Gauteng province of South Africa.

βœ… The Gross Floor Area (GFA) of a building is the total floor area of all floors of the building, measured from the exterior walls of the building. This measurement does not include the area of the land the building is on, or any outdoor areas such as balconies or terraces.

βœ… A Home Enterprise or Home Undertaking is a small business that is operated from a person’s home. This type of business is typically small in scale and may involve activities such as crafting, selling handmade goods, or providing services such as tutoring or consulting.

βœ… NEMA, or the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and Regulations, is a law in South Africa that sets out the framework for environmental management and protection in the country. The Act and its regulations establish the roles and responsibilities of different government departments and other organizations in relation to environmental management, and provide a framework for the development and implementation of environmental policies and programs.

βœ… Outdoor Advertising refers to the use of outdoor spaces, such as billboards, street furniture, and transit shelters, to display advertisements. This type of advertising is meant to reach consumers when they are outside of their homes or offices, and is often used to promote products, services, or events.

βœ… A panhandle property is a type of property that has a narrow, elongated shape that resembles a pan handle. This type of property is often found in urban areas where land is scarce and property owners want to maximize the amount of space available for building.

βœ… The parking ratio is the ratio of parking spaces to the number of units or buildings on a piece of property. For example, a property with a parking ratio of 1:20 would have one parking space for every 20 units or buildings. This ratio is used to ensure that there is enough parking available for the people who live or work on the property.

βœ… A ROD, or record of decision, is a document that describes the decision made by a government agency or other organization regarding a proposed development project. This document typically includes information about the project’s location, scope, and potential impacts on the surrounding environment.

βœ… An SDF, or spatial development framework, is a document that outlines the goals, objectives, and strategies for the development of a specific area. This document is often created by local governments or other organizations and is used to guide the planning and development of new projects in the area.

βœ… A section 82 certificate is a document issued by the local government that confirms that a property complies with all of the zoning and land use regulations in the area. This certificate is often required before a property can be sold or developed.

βœ… A section 101 certificate is a document issued by the local government that confirms that a property has been properly registered and that all of the necessary fees and taxes have been paid. This certificate is often required before a property can be sold or developed.

βœ… A section 125 amendment scheme is a document that outlines changes to the zoning or land use regulations for a specific area. This document is often created by local governments or other organizations and is used to update the regulations for a particular area in order to reflect changes in the community or the needs of the area.

βœ… Density is a measure of how closely packed together a group of objects is. In the context of South Africa, density could refer to the population density of a certain area, which is the number of people living in that area per unit of land.

βœ… Flood lines are lines on a map that indicate the maximum water level that is expected during a flood. These lines are useful for people who live in areas that are prone to flooding, as they can help to determine whether a particular property is at risk of being flooded.

βœ… Notarial tie is a term used in South Africa to refer to a legal relationship between two parties that is established by a notary public. A notary public is a public official who is authorized to witness the signing of documents and to certify their authenticity. In the case of a notarial tie, the notary public acts as an independent third party who can provide evidence of the relationship between the two parties. This is often used in situations where there is a need to prove the existence of a contract or agreement.

βœ… Urbanization: This refers to the process of increasing the proportion of people living in urban areas, which can be driven by population growth, economic development, and other factors. In South Africa, urbanization has been a key trend in recent decades, with many people moving from rural areas to cities in search of job opportunities and a better quality of life.

βœ… Zoning: This refers to the practice of dividing land into different areas or districts, each with its own set of regulations and guidelines for the type and intensity of development that is allowed. Zoning helps to ensure that land is used in a way that is consistent with the broader goals and objectives of the community.

βœ… Land use planning: This refers to the process of deciding how land should be used, such as for residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural purposes. Land use planning involves mapping out where different land uses should be located and how they should be integrated with one another.

βœ… Subdivision: This refers to the process of dividing a larger parcel of land into smaller lots or units, which can be sold or developed separately. Subdivision is a common practice in South Africa, and is typically regulated by town planning authorities to ensure that the resulting development is in line with the broader goals of the community.

βœ… Infrastructure: This refers to the basic facilities and systems that are needed to support the development and functioning of a community, such as roads, utilities, schools, and hospitals. Infrastructure planning involves deciding where and how to build and maintain these facilities and systems.

βœ… Transportation planning: This refers to the process of deciding how to provide efficient and convenient transportation options for residents and businesses within a community. Transportation planning can involve a range of considerations, such as the location of roads and highways, public transit systems, and bike and pedestrian facilities.

βœ… Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a process used to evaluate the potential impacts of a proposed project or development on the environment. This may include impacts on air and water quality, soil, flora and fauna, and other natural resources. The purpose of an EIA is to identify any potential negative impacts of a project and to propose measures to mitigate or avoid those impacts.

βœ… Public open space refers to areas within a city or town that are accessible to the public, such as parks, playgrounds, and green spaces. These spaces provide opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and social interaction, and can contribute to the overall health and well-being of a community.

βœ… Density is a measure of how many people or buildings are concentrated in a particular area. High-density areas are those with a large number of people or buildings in a small area, while low-density areas are those with fewer people or buildings per unit of land.

βœ… Height restrictions are regulations that limit the maximum height of buildings in a particular area. These restrictions are often put in place to maintain the character of an area, to prevent buildings from blocking views or sunlight, or to prevent overdevelopment.

βœ… Heritage conservation is the practice of preserving and protecting cultural heritage sites, such as historic buildings and landmarks. This may include restoration work, preservation of architectural features, and efforts to educate the public about the significance of the heritage site.

βœ… Affordable housing refers to housing that is available at a cost that is within the financial means of low- and moderate-income households. In South Africa, affordable housing is a major issue, with many people living in informal settlements or overcrowded and inadequate housing.

βœ… Flood management is the practice of protecting against the negative impacts of flooding. This may include measures such as building flood walls, installing drainage systems, and creating green spaces that can absorb excess water.

βœ… Greenbelts are areas of undeveloped land that are set aside to prevent urban sprawl and preserve the natural environment. These areas may be used for recreation or agriculture, and can help to protect against soil erosion, improve air and water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife.

βœ… Sprawl refers to the rapid expansion of urban development into surrounding rural areas, often characterized by low-density, single-family homes and strip malls. This type of development can put a strain on infrastructure and natural resources, and contribute to urban sprawl.

βœ… Gentrification is the process by which a lower-income neighborhood or district undergoes physical and demographic changes, typically resulting in an influx of wealthier residents and businesses. This can lead to the displacement of long-time residents and businesses, as well as changes to the character of the area.

βœ… Resilience refers to the ability of a community or system to withstand and recover from disturbances, such as natural disasters or economic shocks. In the context of town planning, resilience can refer to the design and planning of communities to be more resistant to these types of disruptions.

βœ… Brownfields are sites that have been contaminated by industrial or commercial activities, and are often abandoned or underutilized. Redeveloping these sites can help to rejuvenate urban areas, but it can also be a complex and costly process.

βœ… Transit-oriented development is a type of urban planning that focuses on creating communities around public transportation hubs, such as train stations or bus stops. This can help to reduce reliance on cars and promote more sustainable forms of transportation.

βœ… Smart growth is an urban planning philosophy that prioritizes the responsible and sustainable development of communities. This can include strategies such as mixed-use development, transit-oriented design, and the creation of walkable, livable communities.

βœ… Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the context of town planning, this can refer to the development of communities in a way that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.

βœ… The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon where urban areas, due to their concentration of buildings, pavement, and other heat-absorbing materials, are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas. This can have negative impacts on health, energy consumption, and the environment.

βœ… Urban design refers to the planning and development of the built environment in urban areas, with the goal of creating functional, attractive, and sustainable cities. This often involves considering a wide range of factors, including land use, transportation, infrastructure, and public spaces.

βœ… Drought-resistant landscaping is a type of landscaping that uses plants and other elements that are able to withstand prolonged periods of dryness or low rainfall. This can help to reduce the amount of watering and irrigation required, which in turn can save water and reduce the strain on local water resources.

βœ… Adaptive reuse is the process of repurposing or renovating existing buildings or sites for a new use, rather than building new structures from scratch. This can help to preserve the character and history of a place, as well as reducing the environmental impact of new construction.

βœ… Transit-oriented design is a type of urban design that focuses on creating communities that are centered around public transportation. This often involves locating housing, shopping, and other amenities in close proximity to transit stations, in order to encourage the use of public transportation and reduce reliance on cars.

βœ… Landscaping refers to the practice of designing and maintaining the outdoor areas of a property, including the planting of trees, shrubs, and flowers, as well as the construction of walkways, patios, and other features. The goal of landscaping is to create attractive and functional outdoor spaces.

βœ… Density bonuses refer to incentives or concessions that are offered to developers in exchange for building projects that meet certain density requirements. These bonuses can take the form of additional floor area, reduced parking requirements, or other concessions that make it more financially attractive for developers to build at higher densities.

βœ… LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is a widely recognized rating system for evaluating the environmental performance of buildings and other construction projects. Developments that are certified under the LEED system are considered to be energy efficient, sustainable, and healthy for occupants.

βœ… A mixed-use development is a type of town planning in which a single area is developed for multiple uses, such as residential, commercial, and recreational. This approach is designed to create more vibrant and dynamic communities by combining different types of land use in a single area. Mixed-use developments can help to reduce traffic congestion and improve the overall quality of life in a community. In South Africa, mixed-use developments are becoming more common as a way to create more sustainable and livable cities.


Overall, town planning in South Africa is focused on promoting sustainable and equitable development in urban and rural areas.

The goal of town planning is to ensure that land and resources are used in a way that benefits the community and the environment


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