Urban planning 2018-07-18T15:43:19+00:00

URBAN PLANNING

Urban planning systems in local government contexts deal with high-value projects and are subject to public scrutiny. They are often overly complex, based on incoherent regulatory framework and not sufficiently transparent.

Integrity risks are inherent in functions this complex, in addition to the multiplicity of actors involved and diversity of political and economic interests represented. The lack of transparency generates corrupt incentives.

In this setting, there is a growing public perception about high corruption levels, which may seriously undermine trust in local government. Integrity abusive acts may seriously affect reputation and the ethical climate, cause direct financial losses, and result in wasted resources.

Therefore, improving the transparency, accountability and openness in the local government urban development planning system would do much to restore confidence in the governance of urban planning.

INTEGRITY RISKS

An integrity risk assessment of urban planning may identify some or all of the following integrity risks/ risk factors (the list is not limited):

  • Local government develops, adopts and changes the Urban plan without a public debate, and without providing an opportunity for interested parties to submit their comments. Local government limits opportunities for review of the proposed plan by interested investors, or provides such opportunity selectively.

  • Urban planners collude with large investors to favour particular development projects.

  • The urban planning decisions prove inconsistent, due to competence gaps; or falsified technical competency qualifications of officials dealing with urban development.

  • Officials request or accept bribes to issue licenses and/or construction permits. Officials grant development approvals or issue decisions on rezoning without justification to aid a third party. Officials decide on a particular development proposal disregarding the available zoning and strategic planning documents to aid a third party. Officials approve an application for change of use of land without justification in exchange of undue benefit.

  • Officials request or accept bribes to reduce or remove delays to development processes and facilitate an application’s path (to move up the queue or short cut the process).

  •  Conflicts of interests, nepotism and favouritism of officials dealing with matters in urban development process.

  • Officials disregard complaints to conceal an abusive conduct, and/or fail to act and/or act selectively upon requests from citizens regarding constructions for which a license has been issued.

  • Officials exercise no monitoring or selective monitoring of a progress of construction work and meeting conditions of construction permits

  • Enforcement decisions for corrections or demolitions of buildings not built in accordance with their permits are issued with excessive delays.

  • Officials exercise inadequate control in cases where development of land permission has been made in exchange for agreements – to provide assets beneficial to the community, such as schools, social housing, transport infrastructure.

RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Following the risk assessment, the local government may consider the following risk management strategies as development points:

  • Further to regulations and local priorities, introduce policy/guidance to govern urban planning. Publicize and communicate (i.e. through the website, intranet, internal trainings, public hearings, etc) .

  • Ensure draft urban plans are made publicly available in a timely manner and are open for comments from interested parties and/or from the public. Take comments into account, and set no limitations for individuals or organisations to provide feedback.

  • Adopt community guidelines on urban planning as this, will help the local community to make informed decisions and better understand the process. Publicize these tools widely, including through web-publication.

  • Further to the applicable regulatory framework, ensure that discretion in urban planning decisions is limited and made subject to mandated sets of robust and objective criteria. Ensure adequate level of transparency.

  • Promote adequate separation of functions, as appropriate (i.e. negotiations and contracting not undertaken by assessors of development applications). Practice staff rotation where appropriate (i.e. in allocation of development assessments from frequent applicants.) Key project decisions should not be made unilaterally. Issuance of individual permits is to be signed by all responsible staff, that took part in the process.

  • Mandatory consult and align with strategic policy documents prior to approval of development proposals and issuing construction permits (i.e. local development and environmental plans, local priorities, etc.). Departures from set standards should be clearly justified and communicated. Proposals involving significant departure from adopted standards should be subject to a special oversight procedure (i.e. peer review or countersigning for controversial matters.)

  • Ensure adequate recording of the key steps in approval of urban development applications, as appropriate (i.e. voting on planning policy matters and individual development applications; minutes of meetings, justifications of decisions, dissenting opinions). Make some of these available on the website (i.e. minutes, decisions, justification, etc.) In certain circumstances (i.e. high-value development applications) consider extension of review panels, to include other important stakeholders.

  • Set up an e-register of development applications and consents. Maintain appropriate level of transparency of the urban planning system to ensure the public has meaningful information about decision-making processes as well as being informed about the basis for decisions. Report publicly on development approvals through a register, as well as through periodic reporting.

  • Conduct regular inspections on the construction sites for each permit issued, document them adequately, to enable a proper audit trail.

  • Institute a functioning formalized system to process relevant complaints and action requests from the community.

  • Set up adequate professional thresholds regarding competency requirements for officials involved in urban planning. Maintain a system of continuing professional development. Where external expertise is being used, promote a competitive process and regularly rotate consultants, as appropriate. Include in the contract with consultants the obligation to declare CoI and adhere to specified ethics standards.

GUIDE TO CORRUPTION-FREE LOCAL GOVERNMENT