SPATIAL PLANNING OF OUR HABITAT – GHANA, AFRICA  By Hoffmann Lartey AGIA (Past Honorary Secretary)

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Tema, one of the model planned cities is practically becoming an unplanned city because of the phenomenon haphazard allocation of plots for building purposes without resorting to professional advice from planners. There is so much clamour for urban space, parks and open spaces which are avenues for the City to breathe are encroached upon or allocated for illegal development at will.

There is a seeming lack of political will to ensure that plans are adhered to. This has huge implications for both social and political costs to the nation.

Planning problems include parking, water shortages, electricity outages, traffic congestions in the city, mixeduse haphazard development, lack of leisure parks, nonadherence to land use policies, non-adherence to building regulations, non enforcement of both planning and building regulations (billboard infestations on our roads, refuse disposal, noise generation, vehicular/pedestrian conflicts, poor road construction and maintenance etc). There has been little adherence to land-use planning strategies.

Town & Country Planning is the engine room for development that includes urban roads development and water and sewerage planning.

A city can be likened to a living, breathing entity with a pulse and character of its own for it to function effectively, the many and sometimes conflicting needs of transportation, sanitation, hovering services and utilities, commerce and industry, etc have to be managed and co-ordinated successfully. Account must also be taken of energy, climate, socio cultural and environmental concerns and other global trends. There are essential ingredients in the design process and explains why architecture and architects play a pivotal role in the creation of human habitat. The nature of our training enables us to involve all the stake-holders.

Architects are the principal shapers of the built environment – determining building form, mass, colour and texture and deciding the size and quality of urban open spaces. The Architect is the leader and initiator of the design team. He co-ordinates the work of other skilled professionals in the construction of buildings and other structures that constitute our urban landscape.

 

Architecture and habitat are inextricably linked and the quality of the former determines the survival and growth of the latter.

Many African cities are growing without adequate planning and millions of our brothers and sisters are forced to endure sub-standard environments characterised by slums and squalor with grossly inadequate social amenities and housing. In many cases their physical planning and management capabilities have not kept pace with events on the ground which compounds the situation.

In Europe, urbanisation brought increased wealth and economic earning, higher education, better health, increased life expectancy and more social amenities. In Africa, however, the reverse seems to be the case.

Every pavement (in our capital city) is being encroached upon by metal containers and every street scape is being turned into badly designed and constructed ground-floor lockable shops and sometimes window-less upper floor for wholesale storage.

Alongside that ugly scenario, other badly designed or-un-designed structures were being put up to little professional supervision in the new, unplanned settlements springing up on the outskirts of our cities. The metal containers eventually become dwelling places with no sanitary facilities.

Also old inner city settlements were fast degenerating into slums with filth-clogged gutters, overflowing garbage heaps and inadequate private and public places of convenience.

All that adds up to quite a sight for sore eyes.

The driving forces now determining the form of our cities are not Architects but rather an assortment of untrained, unqualified, unregistered people parading as designers of structures .