Maryna holds the BA, LLB, LLM degrees and is a Director at the Cape Town offices of STBB. She is an admitted Attorney, Notary Public and Conveyancer with many years of experience in the field of property law and conveyancing. She is also the firm's Marketing Director and attends to external publications for the firm as well as conducts ongoing training for estate agent and bankers training and is a regular seminar presenter for attorneys and property practitioners.

Newsflash | City of Cape Town’s amendments to Municipal Planning Bylaw in aid of inclusivity, short-term letting and much more

Substantial amendments to the City of Cape Town Municipal Planning By-law become operational today, 3 February. These deal with, amongst other things:

  • controlled densification of suburbs by allowing additional homes on erven where the relevant zoning previously prohibited this;
  • short-term letting of flats and homes for up to 30 days;
  • added options for minor cell masts (whether freestanding or on a rooftop);
  • increase of validity period of land use applications from 2 years to 5 years; and
  • Minimum off-street parking requirements,

Here is a list of the most prominent new provisions:

Short-term letting provisions
Short-term letting from a house or flat for a period not exceeding 30 consecutive days is no longer controversial. The By-Law makes specific allowance for such use of premises and adds a definition of a “transient guest” who may make use of short-term letting. A transient guest is someone who “is provided temporary accommodation on a land unit that is not their permanent place of residence, for a continuous period not exceeding 30 consecutive days at a time”.
This does not prevent body corporates of sectional title schemes, homeowners’ associations and similar bodies to make rules controlling or even prohibiting the use of a property for short-term letting and to address issues of security or behaviour. Such rules will trump the zoning allowance.

Single Residential zoning now allows for three dwellings
All land units within the City have a base zoning that determines what the land may be used for and how the land may be developed (use rights). Certain such use rights are only allowed if the municipality’s consent is obtained (consent rights).
The amendment in the By-Law allows for the erection of a third dwelling (as an additional use right) on properties zoned Single Residential. Previously this was limited to two dwellings. The property owner is now allowed to add a third dwelling on the property without the obligation to obtain prior approval from the City, subject to the normal development rules of the property and specified additional conditions. The construction of a third dwelling will still be subject to the City Directors’ confirmation that there is sufficient service capacity in the area (ie, water, sanitation & electricity services to support the additional dwelling) and the owner must submit a building plan to the City for approval before construction may commence. The City may require a third dwelling to have the same architecture as that of the main dwelling house.
According to the City, that this provision should assist densification in a city that has limited land available for development, thereby curbing urban sprawl.

Cell towers
The City has approved new provisions that allow for the installation of minor freestanding cell masts on properties zoned as ‘community use’, ‘transport use’ or ‘agricultural use’.
These categories include buildings such as churches, schools, clinics and hospitals. Owners may therefore install minor freestanding cell masts (of less than 12 metres in height) or minor rooftop masts (of less than 1.5 metres in height) on these buildings without prior land use approval from the city or adjacent landowners. Building plan approvals may however still be required.
According to the City, one of the main purposes of these provisions is to ensure that the infrastructure is less unsightly and to minimise the impact on the local character of an area where these are installed. This leniency however does not regulate any potential health related matters where telecommunication is concerned. Network providers must be compliant with local Health Department requirements as well as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection standards on non-ionising radiation protection with respect to safety standards.

Boundary walls
Height and visual penetrability of boundary walls are now regulated. The Council’s approved policy remains in force in respect of the type of permitted materials for walls and fences, but (i) the definition of a boundary wall and height has been amended; and (ii) a new requirements for visual permeability has been included.

Height of structures
There is now an additional method to determine the height of structures. Height will no longer be measured from a base level as an imaginary plane, but rather from all points above the existing ground level. A specified height above existing ground level can be seen as a ‘parallel’ plane to the existing ground level. All references to base level have therefore been changed to refer to existing ground level and the definition of existing ground level has been amended.

Increase of validity period for approvals of land use applications
The default validity period for approvals granted in respect of land use applications is now standardised to be 5 years (and not two). Similarly, and extension of the validity period for land use applications is also increased to 5 years. (This excludes temporary land use departures.)

Prescribed form for objections and appeals
Objections to an application, or an appeal against a decision made in terms of the By-Law need to be submitted on a standardised form. The intention of the standardised form is to ensure that the objection or appeal provides the City with the relevant and required information. These forms will be made available on the City’s website and from its district offices.

Minimum off-street parking requirements
Minimum parking requirements have been reduced for the following land use categories: Flats, boarding houses & guest houses, backpackers lodges, hotels, retirement homes & orphanages, crèches, places of instruction, gyms and health clubs, clinics, medical consulting rooms, veterinary practices, shops, supermarkets, restaurants, motor showrooms.
Industry minimum parking requirements have been increased for the following land use categories: Motor repair garage, service station, motor fitment centre.
Minimum parking requirements have been added for the following: third dwelling and self-storage.

E-mail correspondence in objections
The City can now use email as a means of corresponding with a person who has commented or objected to a development application.

Staff quarters unit
The definition has been amended so that a domestic staff quarter is no longer limited to staff employed in the main house; however the approval of the City is required for more than one staff quarter on any one land unit.

Minor departures from subzonings can now be made without the necessity to rezone
The approval of an application for a departure to alter the development rules relating to permitted floor space or height that does not exceed 10% of the maximum height or floor space of the existing subzone, does not trigger the minimum threshold requirement.
The transitional clause confirms that amendments to the by-law cannot be applied retrospectively. This means that those applications that have been accepted for assessment by the City must be considered and finalized in terms of the provisions in the by-law as it was at the time the application was accepted.