Review of bill to refine town planning, land subdivision

Review of the proposed urban and regional service planning bill continued in Fiji’s capital city Suva this morning with consultations with referral agencies and professional bodies.

Still in its first draft, the bill to repeal the aged town planning and subdivision of land acts seek to “streamline processes and minimise uncontrolled and poorly regulated development.”

The existing Town Planning Act Cap 139 and the Subdivision of Land Act Cap, were enacted well before Fiji’s independence – in 1946 and 1937 respectively.

In opening the session, Minister for Local Government Premila Kumar said today’s forum is part of consultations also undertaken in the western and northern divisions, to hear from key stakeholders. The consultation seeks to tweak the proposed bill further if need be, all to ensure it is modernised to make it relevant to current “needs, and better serve clients and importantly, effectively guide urban and rural development in the country.”

“The review will also consider decentralising approvals so that only major developments are forwarded to the office of the Town and Country Planning for approval,” Kumar said.

Consultations with the referral agencies and professional bodies, she says are crucial given their role in the implementation of development projects around the country. Highlighting a current practise that will be eliminated via the bill, Kumar said the department would send written referrals to the agencies and would wait up to 30 days for comments.

“This is an archaic methodology, which needs to be re-evaluated.  Why modern technology cannot be used to communicate and expedite referrals?.”

The bill also provides guidance as to who can lodge building applications, an aspect Kumar says will address a high number of sub-standard applications received by municipal councils. In 2019, the Suva City Council received 200 building applications that were deemed to be sub-standard meaning that plans were not drawn to scale with instances of copy-paste.

“Another aim of this review is to centralise major land and building development applications to DTCP’s head office for approvals within a week of being received.  There are references made in the draft Bill for fast tracking provisions,” Kumar said.

To supplement the review of the Town Planning legislations, Kumar says work is also underway to amend the Town Planning General Provisions 1999 through the amendment of the Interim (Development Control) Regulations 1960.

At the conclusion of the consultations, undertaken by the ministry with the services of Nadkam Consultants, the bill will be revised to reflect recommendation and comments from stakeholders before it is submitted to the Solicitor General’s Office for legal drafting and finalisation.

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