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General News Fri, 31 Jan 2003

Kumasi's Development Getting Worse, Chaotic

...80% of buildings without permit
Infrastructural development in the Ashanti regional capital of Kumasi, one time Garden City of West Africa is getting worse.

It is estimated that over 80% of buildings sprouting out in the locality are without the appropriate building and development permits from the Town and Country Planning Department and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) respectively.

Housing stock and conditions in Kumasi have changed since 1960 when there were 8,475 houses in Kumasi against 22,800 in 1991. Today the figure has raised about five fold representing an increase of over 500%.

Between 1990-2000 only 7.2% of the buildings in the metropolis had permits. It is learnt that all those who have permits are those who can access loans from the banks.

The trend, according to Chronicle painstaking investigations is attributed to basic legal problems described by development officers as "very cumbersome," lawlessness and apathy on the part of the Kumasi Planning Committee whose meetings had not been regular over the years.

The result is that the issue of permits had been very slow generally even though permits are supposed to be granted or issued within 90 days.

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The requirement for a lease before one applies for permit has also been cited as a major obstacle. It takes a longer time getting permits not to mention the acquisition of leases.

Conditions on allocation papers (where land owners expect allocated lands developed within a specific period) and the complexity of lease have been cited as the major cause for the situation. People are even linking the use of land to ownership.

By regulation, housing developers are required to obtain development permits from the Town and Country Planning department and building permit from the KMA. But due to the cumbersome nature of the procedure and cost (in terms of time and actual payment of fees) many developers avoid applying to obtain the required permits.

When granted, the development permit .allows the developer to proceed with the approved type of development (residential or whatever) at a particular location. Building permits required for the purpose of ensuring that the Metropolitan authorities scrutinize the architectural and engineering details of the design of the proposed development, as well as its potential impact on the surrounding environment.

When these details have been checked and approved, the developer is required to pay a development fee (which is based on the assessed value of the development or house) before a building permit is issued. It is required that Building permit should be issued before any house construction starts, but due to delays in processing documents, most developments get started with it.

An important condition required for housing developers before development and building permits are processed is that they should have a clear and genuine title to the land for development but many developers do not possess these requisite documents (allocation notes and leases).

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Basically the Town and Country Planning department as planners do not implement policies. They only allocate space for development and monitor it.

The Local Government Law Act 462 of 1993 states that it is the Assembly (KMA) that has the main authority for implementing plans as to development.

The result is that developments are going on even on public rights and places including school, market and sanitation sites, open spaces, nature reserves, parks and roads without restraint.

Chronicle has learnt that there are many house owners and developers who are ignorant of the laws on house building.

The Local Government Act 462 section 51 and 52 state that unauthorized developments on any of the aforementioned public rights could be stopped (demolished) without notice and developers surcharged with the cost of demolition.

The developer who strays into public user areas (zoned and approved areas for markets, schools, parks, etc) is given 28 days before the demolition but the enforcement of the law is very weak and inefficient. "There are flaws in the system," an observer said, adding the Building Inspectorate Unit of the KMA has no teeth to bite attributing the situation to political expediency.

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In Kumasi there is the Kumasi Planning Committee (KPC) known elsewhere as Statutory Planning Committee which processes applications for both planning and development permits in the Metroplitan area with the local Town and Country Planning Department as its Secretariat.

Chiefs have also been cited as another cause of the chaotic situation in land development in the metropolis. "Some of the chiefs are not upright when it comes to sale of lands and development."

There are these corrupt public servants who connive with these chiefs to cause harm to the environment, the developer and the nation as a whole since revenue generation in terms of fees, taxes and ground rent is affected.

Chronicle investigations have revealed that most areas in the Kumasi metropolis have no layouts and that approved distribution has not been done for some tine now.

The result is that changes are being effected unofficially. Ridiculously Santasi, Pankronu, Bremang, parts of Kuwait, Tafo, Kotei and Ayeduase (all suburbs of Kumasi) have no layouts.

The Nkontwima area is said to have three layouts resulting in the wanton sale of lands without recourse to proper development. For instance most of the permits in Kumasi are said to have been completed but they would not be released to the applicants.

For two years when a planning officer was promoted he would not hand over his previous office let alone release the approved permits for reasons best known to him.

Chronicle investigations have also revealed that for seven years now the Chief of Ayeduase near Kumasi has paid over ?75 million to the Town and Country Planning Department for a modern layout for the community in vain. The chief would not respond to Chronicle enquiries to ascertain the fact.

The Metropolitan Director of T&CP department, Mr. Asiedu Poku has described the situation as "chaotic but not insurmountable." According to him, his outfit has adopted an indirect system of educating the communities about re-planning.

He mentioned Anyinam, Kwapra, Atonsu Bokuro and Pakoso (all suburbs in the metropolis) as some of the communities that have been awakened and are actually responding to remedial development plans initiated by the T&CP department.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle