Differences in interpreting the physical planning laws threaten to stall building projects in the capital.
Daily Monitor has learnt that Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) technocrats — including engineers and physical planners — are divided over who should approve or cancel development plans.
The divisions were triggered by a legal opinion from KCCA manager legal advisory services, Mr Lony Akena, on enforcement of development plans across the city.
In the October 18 opinion, Mr Akena, at the request of KCCA’s building committee (BC), offered counsel about how to handle developers who alter development approved plans.
The committee is majorly constituted by engineers under the Directorate of Engineering and Technical Services.
Mr Akena advised that the Building Control Act (BCA), 2013 entrusts the building committee with the mandate of approving development applications.
He also added that the Physical Planning Committee (PPC) ceased having jurisdiction over consideration and approval of building operations and enforcement.
“It, therefore, follows that any person who wishes to carry out a building operation must obtain a building permit issued by the BC,” he wrote.
Section 34 (1) of the BCA states that a person shall not carry out a building operation unless he or she has a valid building permit issued by a BC.
Section 40 of the act states that the same committee may stop a building operation if a structure doesn’t meet prescribed standards.
Mr Akena said these provisions are “self-explanatory” on the issue of “monitor[ing] implementation of building operations and to ensure no deviations are carried out.”
He also advised that it is the BCs that are mandated to “issue a stop order” where “deviations are found to have been done without approval.”
They are also empowered to “require that remedial action is taken by developers or cause prosecution of offenders.”
The Building Control Regulations, 2020 under Section 28 also give BCs the powers to demolish an illegal structure.
However, physical planners are against this interpretation, arguing that the Physical Planning Act (PPA), 2010 remains supreme since it was not repealed by either the Building Control Regulations, 2020 or BCA, 2013.
They accuse Mr Akena of attacking the physical planning profession and undermining its role in the development of the city.
They cite Section 33 of the PPA, 2010, which mandates physical planners to guide on development in land use.
KCCA’s senior physical planner for Central Division, Mr Villey Agaba, said physical planning transcends individual structures.
Without it, Mr Agaba added, Kampala would plunge into uncoordinated planning.
Mr Agaba also said the PPA and BCA are interrelated. This explains why an applicant of a building permit is supposed to acquire PPC approval.
Based on this, Mr Agaba held that “a full section [on development control] in the PPA 2010” and “Section 55 of the BCA 2013” require “deeper interpretation and guidance from the Solicitor General.”
Mr Agaba warned that the ultimate bearer of the price of the ongoing confusion of urban development are clients or developers who get development permission from PPC only to incur losses when the BC waves a red flag.
“The approval process should not be divided by laws. The laws should be read concurrently and applied concurrently. A one stop centre of technical officers with all players as was in the past (technical review team) should be established to not only limit deviations but even illegal structures as the process will be simplified,” he said.
Mr Agaba also asked KCCA management to invest more resources in inspection of developments in terms of human resource and transport facilitation to quickly identify illegal developments and take action.
When a building in Kisenyi caved in, killing six people last month, it was discovered that physical planners who had it on a red list were powerless to cause its demolition.
“You can’t issue a building permission in regards to land use and then be excluded from making a decision on whether to demolish a structure if it doesn’t meet standards. The building committee can advise on how the demolition should be done but not to exclude physical planners from causing demolition of an illegal structure,’’ a physical planner, who preferred anonymity, said.
Physical planners argue that the existing legal incoherence in the planning laws will worsen the urban development crisis.
The acting chairperson of the National Physical Planning Board, Ms Amanda Ngabirano, a regional and urban planner, said the KCCA technocrats should work together to rid the city of illegal developments.
“Last week, the National Physical Planning Board ordered some local governments to demolish illegal fuel stations. We did that as a team, including the NBRB (National Building Review Board) and Uganda police,’’ she said.
Ms Ngabirano warned that some developers may take advantage of the ongoing standoff to compromise on building standards.
Attempts to get a comment about the standoff from either the Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, or his deputy, Mr Jackson Kafuuzi Karugaba, were futile.