Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Gated Communities in South Africa: The Challenge for Spatial Planning and Land Use Management

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Gated Communities in South Africa: The Challenge for Spatial Planning and Land Use Management

Article excerpt

Gated communities have proliferated in South Africa since 1994. However, they cause a number of problems and raise serious concerns regarding spatial fragmentation, social exclusion, citizenship and democracy. This paper investigates their implications for spatial planning and land use management in post-apartheid South Africa. It concludes that it is irrelevant to consider gated communities as a meta concept. The paper calls for different approaches to different types of gated communities in order to begin to address some of the contemporary challenges.

Walled cities are almost as old as human settlement. Throughout history cities were built with walls to protect citizens against invaders, warring factions, neighbouring states, marauding criminals, and so forth. However, with the introduction of gun powder and canons, walls gradually became obsolete. Modern day gated communities mainly developed as a defence against crime in larger cities. 'Gated community' is a generic term referring to an area that is fenced/walled off from its surroundings with access control and privatised public/communal spaces inside. There are many types of gated communities and these differ between and within countries, varying in size and character, and offering differing degrees of amenities, facilities and levels of security.

Since the early 1990s gated communities have experienced significant growth in South Africa, especially in the metropolitan areas of Gauteng Gated communities have become popular primarily as a response to high levels of crime and the fear of crime (Landman and Schönteich, 2002). In the aftermath of political transition, South Africa faces many socio-economic challenges, such as poverty, unemployment and high crime levels. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and that more than 30 per cent of the population are unemployed. If one only considers the formal sector, 40 per cent of the labour force lack formal employment (Tomlinson, 2003). This contributes to high income disparities.1 Overall crime levels increased by almost 5 per cent between 1997-98, 7 per cent in 1998-99, and 7.6 per cent in 1999-2000 (Schönteich, 2002).

Gated communities raise a number of questions related to the socio-spatial challenges in post-apartheid South Africa and have resulted in a widespread debate around their likely future impact on urban life in South Africa. These questions touch on their effectiveness to address crime and the fear thereof and the impact and implications for spatial fragmentation and social exclusion, as well as the role of planning to mitigate any possible negative consequences.

In general there are several approaches that local councils may take towards gated communities. These include a strong proactive stance, a more pragmatic approach or a laissez-faire approach. The first involves a strong position (either for or against gated communities) that is based on existing planning policies or development frameworks and the criteria and principles contained within these. These can include either national, provincial or local planning and development policies. The second approach encompasses a more neutral stance that acknowledges the arguments for and against gated communities and finds ways to manage their development. The third approach refers to a policy or stance of non-interference, where local governments abstain from interfering in the workings of the free market. These differing approaches, linked with demanding local challenges, often make it very difficult for planners to have a clear sense of which direction to follow regarding gated communities.

This paper investigates the challenges of gated communities for spatial planning and land use management in South Africa and engages with the question of how gated communities should be regulated in order to address a number of growing concerns. The next section introduces the international debate in order to frame a number of concerns and to establish a base for an exploration of these questions within the South African context. …

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