Impact of Land Use Application Time-frames and Fees on Development and Growth

The Impact of Land Use Application Time-frames and Fees on South African Development

South Africa, a country with a rich tapestry of potential and promise, is currently grappling with a significant challenge that is stifling its growth and development. This challenge lies in the realm of land use applications, a critical process that developers must navigate to bring their visions to life. However, the current system, characterized by lengthy approval times, high fees, and seemingly arbitrary bulk contributions, is proving to be a deterrent for many potential developers.

The Time-Frame Challenge

One of the most significant hurdles in the land use application process is the time it takes for applications to be approved. For instance, a rezoning application can take up to two years to be approved. This lengthy process can be a significant turnoff for many potential developers who are eager to start their projects and see a return on their investments.

The protracted approval process not only delays the implementation of development projects but also increases the holding costs for developers. This situation can lead to increased project costs, which may ultimately be passed on to the end-users, further exacerbating the housing affordability crisis in the country.

The Financial Burden: Application Fees and Bulk Contributions

In addition to the time-frame challenge, the financial burden associated with land use applications is another significant deterrent for developers. The City of Tshwane, for example, has some of the highest land development application fees across South Africa. A rezoning application, which is a common requirement for many development projects, costs R9,645.00, with an additional promulgation fee of R2,870.00.

Furthermore, the municipality often demands bulk contributions as a prerequisite for approving land development applications. For instance, a simple rezoning application from residential to business can attract bulk infrastructure contributions of around R400,000. This high cost can be prohibitive for many developers, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises that may not have the financial capacity to absorb such costs.

The Paradox of Bulk Contributions in Areas Without Services

Adding to the complexity and frustration is the fact that the municipality in some cases demands bulk contributions even in areas that lack services. For instance, in areas that do not have sewerage bulk, the municipality still insists that developers pay contributions. This practice seems counterintuitive and unfair, as developers are essentially being asked to pay for services that are non-existent.


The current land use application process in South Africa, characterized by lengthy approval times and high costs, is a significant barrier to development. If the country is to realize its development potential, there is a pressing need for reform in this area. Streamlining the approval process, reviewing the fee structure, and adopting a more equitable approach to bulk contributions could go a long way in attracting more developers and stimulating growth in the sector.

The development sector has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for South Africans. However, for this potential to be realized, the land use application process must be supportive and enabling, rather than a deterrent. It is time for a review and reform of the land use application process to foster a more conducive environment for development in South Africa.

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