LSSA labels planning profession rules unconstitutional, anti-competitive and against public interest

August 1st, 2012
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By Barbara Whittle

In responding to a notice issued by the South African Council for Planners for comments on the revised rules and regulations for the planning profession under s 30(2) of the Planning Professions Act 36 of 2002, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) stated that the regulations confused the interests of the planning profession and the public interest, and labelled the reserved work provisions in the regulations as anti-competitive, unconstitutional and antithetical to the interests of the public. The LSSA stressed that for the regulations to succeed, they must be synonymous with the public interest.

The LSSA indicated its intention to oppose the regulations in their present form.

The planning profession consists of persons trained in spatial planning. The regulations proposed by the Council for Planners seek to protect that work for its members’ economic interests. However, the LSSA is of the view that the regulations cut off the public from sources of competent alternative professionals who doubtless will charge for their work at different rates to planning professionals (if they charge at all in certain circumstances), thus maintaining much-needed competition in a critical public service.

In December 2008 the LSSA objected in toto to the draft regulations providing for reserved work to the planning profession in that they were both unconstitutional and anti-competitive. The present draft regulations, according to the LSSA, suffer from the same defect.

The LSSA noted that the regulations would permit the Council for Planners to establish a monopoly on work that is not, and never has been, the exclusive preserve of the planning profession.

The LSSA stated that it had no objection to the planning profession delineating, according to differing levels of experience and training, the different areas of planning work that may be conducted by various categories of its registered members. However, according to the LSSA, a great number of the areas of ‘planning’ work – such as concept and framework planning, rezoning and scheme amendments, special consent applications and the assessment of all such applications – are the legitimate domain of many non-planners.

The LSSA stressed that it was unacceptable that rezoning, special consent and other ‘standard’ planning applications were reserved for registered planners only, as legal practitioners routinely prepare and lodge land development applications for projects entailing the amendment of approved plans and policies. Rezoning, special consent and applications under the Development Facilitation Act 67 of 1995 fall into this category. The LSSA stated that ‘it would be absurd to suggest that lawyers should henceforth be excluded from such work. Indeed, certain senior practitioners specialising in these forms of legal work have more expertise than recently registered professional planners and know a great deal more about the processes involved.’

The full submissions by the LSSA on the rules and regulations for the planning profession can be accessed on the LSSA website at www.LSSA.org.za under ‘Legal practitioners’ under the tab ‘LSSA comments’.

Compiled by Barbara Whittle, communication manager, Law Society of South Africa, barbara@lssa.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (Aug) DR 15.