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City decay: Experts seek enforcement of development law

Posted: Apr 21, 2015 at 2:07 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bamidele Ogunwusi

Bad Road

Bad Road

Correspondent, Lagos


Planning experts have identified development control as a potent tool for city management and this ensures that the continual growth and management of a city can be such that make for orderliness and improved city image.

It also ensures that environmental challenges as a result of city growth can be reduced to tolerable levels.

They believed that in metropolitan Lagos for example, development control requires special skill as a result of the daily problems the authorities are confronted with, which is attributed to the sheer size and rate of increase of these settlements and the complexities of the tasks involved.

The problem ranges from uncontrolled change of use of property, non-compliance with space standards and approved design, unguided and ineffective enforcement of building regulations.

Prominent among the challenges of metropolitan areas/mega cities are the tasks of rapid territorial expansion, cultural and ethnic diversity, and non compliance to planning standards, extensive infrastructure networks, urban poverty, global competitiveness, transportation, communication, social services, and potentials for environmental degradation, urban aesthetics, energy consumption, physical planning regulation and security, lack of executive capacity to deliver or implement relevant urban and regional planning laws.   Town planners in the country are again lamenting the trend, while urging stakeholders, particularly both federal and state governments to rise to the occasion of ensuring that planning regulations and rules are adhered to, if the nation and her people must feel the impacts of several planning laws in Nigeria.

To some town planners, inability to enforce planning law on one hand and deliberate attempt, or ignorance by the property owners on the application of these relevant laws contributes immensely to the identified issues.

For instance, the Lagos Urban and Regional Planning and Development stipulated certain peculiar characteristics in terms of intensity of use, strategic and special requirements in areas of physical, environmental, governmental and socio-economic demands/ needs of the individual, government and non- governmental organizations (NGOs).

These include but not limited to the following:  petrol filling stations (PFS); eatery, banks, gas plant, place of worship (P.O.W), hotel, events centres, golf course, large scale developments, independent power projects, telecommunication mast, residential of more than eight family units, shopping complex, among others. For example, in places of worship, general requirements for two floors and above include a standard plot that must accommodate one car park per 40 square metres, while sub-standard plot would accommodate one car park per 75 square metres.

There could also be provision for vicarage, toilets and other residential quarters of not more than two floors of two units within the premises.  On parking requirement for commercial developments, the law stipulates that there shall be two car parking spaces for every ten meters of eating space in a restaurant, eatery and fast foods outlet.

Besides, no petrol filling station shall be allowed on inner streets in residential areas and a minimum distance of 1500 metres shall be observed between two petrol filling stations along major (primary) routes in developing area and along all expressways in Lagos State. Also, two petrol filling stations on opposite sides of a single carriage road shall have an adjacent separating distance of at least 500 metres unless on a dual carriageway with median, where two petrol filling stations may be allowed opposite one another.  Every petrol filling station in Lagos State shall reserve 25 per cent of the total land area to accommodate vehicle maintenance artisans.

Reception/Assembly halls, rows of shops, or such other uses shall not be allowed within petrol /gas filling stations in Lagos State. Technical requirements for the grant of development permit shows that in a space standards for residential development, all rooms must have cross ventilation and that the minimum height of living rooms, kitchen, and all other rooms shall not be less than 2.7metres.

Also, a minimum of two staircases shall be provided for any proposal more than one family unit above the ground floor. For market, there must be access roads, public toilets, parking space for both trucks that convey goods to the market, especially, big markets such as Mile 12 and Oyingbo. But markets that were located in the built-up areas such as Ita faji and Sand Grouse, in Lagos Island and others must have toilets, reasonable parking space for consumers, including access routes.

Alhaji Waheed Kadiri, a foremost town planner and president, African Planning Association, while commending Lagos Government for taking proactive measures to ensure effective planning in the metropolis, said planning does not end in making planning laws, but rather, effective monitoring and compliance must be included.

He said transport impacts on shopping mall must not be discountenanced. “Lagos Metropolitan Master Plan incorporates where mall should be cited and necessary infrastructure or facilities that must be incorporated. But the truth of the matter is that indiscriminate location of these malls, apart from creating some traffic problems, are capable of killing small retail markets that are serving the majority of the masses”, he said.

He noted that super markets are dying and that planning should serve the poorest but not those who can serve themselves.   Kadiri, who was also onetime president, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), one major challenge in Lagos today is within built-up areas.

“Application of planning laws was said to be very difficult, if not impossible. Some basic requirements such as space for parking, set back rules, access roads leading inside and out of such premises are difficult except some existing buildings would go and this is not easy to do. “The availability of these facilities, make the difference between cities and rural areas. But unfortunately, they are adequate for one or two reasons.  One, those providing are not even monitoring the population dynamics. Level quality and amount of infrastructure should not be static but dynamic, taking into consideration all planning concerns.

“When Surulere was planned, some families may not be able to buy one car but that has changed now as you find each family owning two to three cars.  And because the planning did not plan for that dynamic, you find residents parking their vehicles on the road. Planning is moving after development because the policy makers do not see planning beyond revenue generation. It is worst, when the government penalizes those that flaunt planning regulation.  And one you penalize, how can you correct the misnomer physical growth?” Kadiri queried.    According to him, the other thing is about our approach to international standards.

“The way forward is about implementation of policies on planning. All of us should be held responsible for the lapses we now see as inadequate in planning matter.”   “Even if application for change of use is allowed, available space may not accommodate the necessary requirement, except where underground parking may be provided and this also has its peculiar problem. These challenges include funding, technical inputs and the safety of the adjoining premises and properties”.

President, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigerian (ATOPCON), Mr. Moses Ogunleye also identified compliance as a major challenge. He said some developers, after getting building permit for certain developments, go about doing a different thing entirely. “This is where issue of compliance comes into play”.

Advocating for strict compliance of planning laws, ATOPCON chief said issue of sanction should not be underplayed. “What could help is that private developers such as shopping mall owners, commercial and financial institutions, eateries, should have their private parks. Even, private investors can have parking lots where token amounts may be collected from vehicle owners.”

Another town planner, Mr. Joseph Akande, Chairman, ATOPCON Lagos State chapter, said the reason why our cities lack some public utilities could be attributable to lack of implementation of planning policies and regulations.