The integration of urban biotope mapping in spatial planning
Keywords:Development Facilitation Act, Environment Conservation Act, environmental impact assessments, environmental sustainability, forward planning, integrated development planning, land use management, National Environmental Management Act, reconstruction and development programme, rural development strategy, spatial development frameworks, spatial planning, urban development strategy, urbanisation
The South African Government has made significant efforts towards integrating the concepts of environmental sustainability with spatial planning. This article focuses on the integration of spatial planning at municipal level with the zoning of land in terms of ecological aspects, including biodiversity. Currently, Spatial Development Frameworks are being compiled at local and district municipal levels as a legal instrument to guide future spatial development. Although it forms part of an integrated approach, i.e. most relevant sectors made a contribution in this regard (through the Integrated Development Planning process), it has shortcomings specifically with regard to environmental matters. Greenfield developments are subjected to Environmental Impact Assessments in most cases where agricultural land is redeveloped. In brownfield developments, however, the land only needs to be rezoned properly - in most cases without an Environmental Impact Assessment. The Impact Assessment is, therefore, a reactive instrument to protect the environment. Strategic Environmental Assessment guidelines, i.e. a pro-active instrument, are quite complex and expensive processes; with little legal backing and support at the moment. On the other hand, biotope mapping is used in numerous countries in Europe as an effective instrument to guide spatial planning and land use management at municipal level. A biotope is an ecological concept and denotes an area that is characterised by specific biota, certain environmental conditions and clearly linked to past and present land-uses. The first phase of integration of these instruments, i.e. biotope mapping and spatial planning, has been implemented in the Potchefstroom Local Municipality as part of the formulation and instruments as part of the Spatial Development Framework. This article shows the process and results of the integration process.
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