Renee Hulley, CEO Black Balance - Seeing Patterns in Urban-Rural Landscapes
Renee Hulley, CEO Black Balance - Seeing Patterns in Urban-Rural Landscapes

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Renee Hulley, CEO Black Balance - Seeing Patterns in Urban-Rural Landscapes


Have you noticed the emergence of a new spatial pattern (of human settlement, development and use of space) in the Province over the last few years? If you have, what are your thoughts about the extent to which city builders and or planners are geared towards facilitating and embracing this change?

These are issues I have tried to research and which I have squarely faced through the spatial planning and development consulting work completed at Black Balance. The shifting spatial patterns are also an opportunity to support the spatial transformation agenda that is currently unfolding and to try to better understand the urban, peri-urban and rural continuum.

There are intricate linkages between these spaces and the fact that these areas house a large part of our population, which is densifying at rates similar to metropolitan areas. In addition, the paper focuses on the economies of these areas and the necessary support required by local government to support these local businesses and entrepreneurs. These spaces are also becoming markets for business from metropolitan areas and the agricultural activities that still occur in the peri-urban and rural spaces are also able to use these metropolitan spaces as areas for selling their produce. The leadership that is required must in effect be visionary, have long term plans that have a regional perspective, but are flexible and able to accommodate dynamic socio-economic and population shifts within the short term.

The spatial patterns of the past in KZN have meant that we have and continue to develop in patterns that have been predetermined. There are historical areas of growth and investment and in areas we see historical underdevelopment and lack of investment. Recent spatial documents confirm this.

However, if we pay closer attention to the spatial shifts and dynamics, we begin to see a new spatial pattern emerge that does not just challenge past patterns but is defining newer cities in newer places that are organic and reflecting a more indigenous city.

These are South African townships emerging as secondary cities and or new cities. They emerged as a result of historical spatial planning but in the 21st century are emerging as locations that address not only the housing backlog but are new areas for economic opportunity for a large section of our population.
In addition, these areas emerge as opportunities for us to build more resilient even more sustainable cities.

In September 2015, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, commissioned a study on Development Edges: A Settlement Typology. In this study it is suggested that the urban rural continuum that we are experiencing today is in fact a historical spatial configuration. The opportunity this offers is that we can develop a spatial response to redress and address the historical patterns.

The location of the Traditional Council areas relative to road systems and to existing urban settlements (of all types) close or adjacent to existing urban areas became the focus of urban migrants. Many of these areas tend to exist at densities not that different to the adjacent urban areas, and in some cases even denser. In these cases settlement tends to be in the form of "peri-urban" transitional areas between denser formal urban areas and the very low density settlements "sprinkled" across the majority of the balance of Traditional Council areas.

The graphic below depicts the urban rural continuum in Estcourt, a large town in KZN with an expanding peri-urban area. This is not unique to Estcourt, but is occurring in other large towns within KZN.

The world has many examples of cities that have expanded rapidly without any kind of planning. The result is chaotic at best, but too often it also impedes further development and is detrimental to citizens'
quality of life and the environment. KZN planners and city leaders therefore need to be forward looking,
planning for growing and changing populations and the impact on transportation, schools, hospitals, and many other aspects of city life. They also need to make sure those plans can be adapted over time to reflect the changing needs of the city. The most effective cities adopt a regional perspective and make the
planning process inclusive and flexible. 

Black Balance Projects
Tel: +27 (0)31 832 3450

Renee Hulley, CEO Black Balance - Seeing Patterns in Urban-Rural Landscapes

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