South Africa faces a severe economic growth and inclusion challenge. In part, the country has not been able to fully harness the urban dividend as cities struggle to overcome the structural inefficiencies that are the result of their spatial apartheid legacies. At present, South Africa’s metropolitan cities are not productive enough, remain segregated and exclusionary, are unsustainable and governance has contributed through weak coordination in policy and resource allocations. Yet the momentum of urbanisation provides the opportunity to address these challenges.
The Built Environment Performance Plan (BEPP) was first introduced in the 2011/12 financial year as an eligibility requirement in respect of the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG).
Metropolitan built environments rely on a number of inputs such as sector policies and related conditional grants, private sector investments, integrated planning, etc. Sector-driven, national and provincial grants play a more prominent role relative to other sources of funding for infrastructure development. The performance of the built environment is a local outcome that is significantly impacted by these, notwithstanding the policies, funding and spatial perspectives of the different spheres and associated state-owned entities. How metropolitan municipalities (‘metros’) lead the development of the built environment and how these grants are invested will impact on the extent to which these investments leverage further investment by the private and household sectors and ultimately determine the extent of spatial restructuring and urban transformation.
In 2014, all metropolitan municipalities outlined ambitious plans for restructuring their built environments, based on the concepts of integrated, transit oriented development as articulated in the Urban Networks Strategy. Government has repeatedly emphasized the need to move beyond planning intentions to urgently prepare and implement practical programmes that can address structural and spatial constraints to urban economic growth. While these programmes need careful planning, their intentions will not be realised without the preparation of a tangible portfolio of public investment projects, and accompanying regulatory reforms that can provide the foundation for practical partnerships with the private sector.
The BEPP provides the opportunity to plan for the alignment of the various built environment grants within the municipal space and to enhance the planning process to facilitate improved inter-governmental coordination in the planning and implementation of urban investments in metropolitan areas. In 2014, the BEPP was adapted as an inter-sectoral plan, and process to arrive at this plan, and re-introduced as a tool for change, to address the weaknesses of the existing planning and budgeting frameworks in producing tangible developmental outcomes.The BEPPs of all Metros have identified key elements of their urban networks, focussing on specific integration zones that are the focus of future investment programmes across sectors, and within which specific, catalytic intervention programmes are identified. This planning process is intended to be “outcome-led”, responding to agreed indicators of improved built environment performance. Catalytic programmes of interventions are identified to support the achievement of targets associated with each of these indicators, so that measurable progress could be achieved in building more productive, liveable, inclusive and sustainable cities.