In South Africa, Local Authorities (municipalities i.e Johannesburg Metro Link) administer building plans approval. Since the introduction of the National Building Regulations (NBRs) in 1985, all Local Authorities in South Africa have applied these functional requirements when checking building plans that have been submitted for approval.
If you are planning to submit your house plans yourself once they have been drawn, check that you have everything in place. It can be very frustrating to submit your plans thinking everything is in order only to find yourself facing extensive delays, for example, the engineer’s form. But, if you do decide to do the submissions yourself you will need the following:-
Building plans submission checklist
Copy of house plans
Since the law requires everybody to have house plans drawn up in a particular manner, and approved by the local authority in their area, it stands to reason that every house will have plans. But this is not always the case, and a lack of approved building plans is clearly a major problem for many people buying and selling houses and other buildings in all parts of South Africa.
The reality is that if alterations and additions have been carried out on a property without municipal (local authority) approval and the property is then sold, it can become quite a complex legal matter.
Sometimes people only discover that there are no plans years after they have bought a property, either because they eventually want to do alterations, or because they want to sell. Other times people find at the point of sale that a house they are buying does not have plans, and they want to know whose responsibility it is to have plans drawn up retrospectively (“as built”).
Building plan approval fees
How much will it cost for me to submit my building plans? – The saying “how long is a piece of string?’ comes to mind.
Each Local Authority has its own rates and formulas which it applies to the calculation for plan submission fees. The first thing the Local Authority does is work out the square metres of new construction area, be it a new structure, additions and alterations, and multiplies that area by the predetermined rates for plan submission. They then add on fees for items such as new swimming pool, building line relaxation and depending on the type of project bulk services contributions may be calculated into their free.
Once the fees have been paid, a file is opened and the plans and relevant documentation is placed there in. This file is then registered in the Local Authorities database and is given a unique reference number. The plan is then sent to the relative departments for plan scrutiny, when the plans arrive at any department, they update the door to base using the files registration number in order to keep track of the files progress.
Some councils have implemented a soft copies plan submission system, such as Cape Town. What this means is that your Architect, Draughtsman or Homeowner may submit their plans in an electronic format (usually in PDF format). This system has its benefits, the main one being that it should be possible to get printed copies of once plans from the Council at a later date which will be clear and to scale. The danger of the system however, is the last of data due to human or server error which may result in a total loss of drawings, related documentation and council inspection notes. In an effort towards a GREENER paperless society, we believe that this is a great initiative and clearly a step forward into the future of faster service delivery.
Should a client wish to submit plans themselves, they will encounter the inevitable waiting period associated with the circulation of their plans. For example the Johannesburg Metro Council routinely inform clients that they are waiting period for plan approval, should all go well and there are no corrections to any of the plans, will be approximately 6 to 8 months. We have had clients that have experienced a plan approval period of up to 12 months. That being said the opposite is also true and under certain unknown circumstances our clients have had plan approval within four weeks.
Because of the time delays being experienced at the Local Authority, we offer a plan submission service. Our staff members that provide this service known as “runners”, they are former building inspectors and plans examiners themselves. They understand the entire plan approval process and also the necessary requirements on every plan and its related documentation, because of this they are able to consult directly with the relevant Local Authority departments and in so doing are able to fast track the plan approval process, between 6 to 8 weeks.
The fee structure for our plan submission service:
Council search R500.00
NORMAL plan submissions R3500.00
Building line relaxation R4000.00
Special consent use R Neg.
SDP (Site Development Plan) R4500.00
Rezoning R Neg.
In general the main categories are; Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Agricultural and Recreational. Each category is divided into additional categories. For example residential can include single family, low density or hi density (such as apartments).
If you visit the planning department, they will have a lot more information available for you. Unless they mentioned that they want to condemn your property, they do not have to pay you. It is more possible that the company has purchased, or wants to purchase land classed as residential and build expand onto the property.
If this is near you, then it can lower your property values. After all do you really want to look out your window at a blast furnace. There will probably be an increase in traffic, and possibly from large trucks. On the positive side the company may hire more people, which benefits the community, but not you.
You have the right to attend the hearing and speak to express your concerns. But you need to learn more about what they want to do with the property. You can speak against it at the hearing or ask that the harmful effects be mitigated. for example if you do not want to look at the factory, you can request that the company be require to landscape to hid the building. If traffic is the problem, ask for road improvements. If noise ask that no trucks before 6:00 am.
(If you do not ask what is going on, or go to the hearing, then you get what they give.)