Public concerns the assemblies must address:
Building permits are building development consents granted to any worthy or prospective developer or person by a statutory authority or organizations to construct buildings or related structures in an approved location,; within a set time frame and in line with local or national building regulations.
It is a legal document covering any building’ property for which its plans are found to be suitable for implementation and eventual human habitation or use. Building permits are commonly granted to cover permanent structures, which include residential, industrial to commercial buildings, as well as temporary or makeshift structures such as kiosks, metal sea containers, local fabricated metal containers otherwise known as container shops and that of advertising hoardings or signs.
These permits also provide necessary guarantees that a proposed building or related structure is to a large extent suitable for construction. It means that proposed land to host the building is ideal, the material specifications for the building are satisfactory, the general architectural, engineering and planning standards have been met and in every way conducive for human use whether for commercial, industrial production, recreation or worship activity.
Local authorities or district assemblies generally receive, process and grants such permits. In some districts, development organisations such as Tema Development Corporation, Volta River Authority, State Housing Company, Ports; Authority and Aviation "Authority have specific and defined jurisdiction that they administer by way of land administration, and physical: structure management Which include housing and infra structural development.
These organisations thus have some level of inputs to the eventual permits that are granted. In almost all cases however, the local authorities within which the above agencies operate command final authority in so far as general physical development and building permits are concered.
In a rare but, interesting report by Sebastian Freiku of Ghanaian Chronicle titled "KUMASI DEVELOPMENT GETTING WORSE, CHAOTIC", the poor state of building development administration in Kumasi township was clearly painted; thus 80 per cent of buildings in the metropolis are without building permits. Between 1990 and 2000 only 7.2 per cent of buildings in the metropolis had permits. Appointed approving planning committees do not meet regularly. Acquisition of lease documents or title, to necessitate the granting of a permit is not easy.
Lengthy processing durations and high cost deter developers from applying for permits. Many developers or people are unaware of laws on housing. Many old and emerging communities have no planning permission. Certain communities have multiple planning schemes, making plan implementation difficult. This is the disturbing building permit state or building development status of Kumasi. What about other towns and cities in the country? The situation may not be far from different.
It is true that public knowledge about building permit, especially the lay public, is scanty and unfavourable except amongst people of the middle and upper brackets of our society who have the Wherewithal to fund building projects. Building Permits are generally seen by the public as a document difficult to obtain from the appointed agencies. Complaints about poor public relations, undue delays and lack of effective means of correspondence make up additional problems associated with permit administration.
Many developers, the public and housing agencies lack sufficient knowledge about the essence of a permit, conditions attached to a permit, the rights of every property owner with regard to approved development and acceptable relating procedures.
This attaché therefore aims to decertify some of these bottleneck affecting smooth administration of permits whilst putting-forward some proposed solutions as a way out. Delays associated with the granting of a building permit is a common complaint by permit applicants. It is believed that the numerous illegal and indiscriminate erections of various structures and building edifices can be attributed in part to the length of time a building application is considered for a permit.
Some stubborn and impatient developers blatantly ignore or resist development abatement directives citing delays or difficulties in securing the permits to justify their illegal development. Individuals and corporate developers have stories to recount about the level of frustration and cost incurred due to the numerous follow ups and accompanying delays experienced whilst patiently waiting for building permits. Local authorities have also put forward many justifications for such delays.
As a result of the impasse, the 1996 National Building Regulation L.I. 1630 Section 8 (1 and 2) was fashioned out as follows: "Where a person submits an application for a building permit the District Planning Authority shall notify him within seven days of the receipt of the application and shall within a period of three months thereafter notify the applicant whether the application is granted or refused". It goes on to conclude that "an applicant not informed about the grant or refusal of his/her application may after the expiry of the three months commence development on the basis that the application is acceptable to the District Planning Authority".
"Clearly this controversial Clause in the regulation seeks to kick local authorities into action ’to avoid Unreasonable delays-whilst keeping applicants abreast of any important matter related to each building application. Such compliance regarding regular correspondence is to ensure that necessary amendment or additional information from the applicant or his appointed consultant’ is provided quickly to "facilitate the grant of a permit so as to avoid unnecessary delays.
Why delays anyway? Which persons or parties contribute to such delays? Ignorant or unscrupulous developers, or builders: often secure the services of "quack people Who often submit flawed building development proposals. Many such applications are often routed through middlemen, without any significant follow-up on the permits until demolition war — cries sound close by.
Petitions by aggrieved developers in relation to applications are rare or are hardly pursued. Petitions are not quickly dealt with and disposed off by the assemblies either.. Queries raised on building proposals are not sorted out quickly by developers for re-submission. Most applicants are generally Unfamiliar with relevant or key departments responsible for processing this type of permits. Planning commitees that consider and approve: building permits most often fail to meet local authorities,’ but should be made to display every month permit applications received, approved or refused.
Land acquired for building projects but Without appropriate ownership or title document from relevant lands departments are likely to be refused the granting of a permit. Proposed building development on any land which is in dispute with such a case in a court of law is hardly favourably considered for a permit unless such legal matters are amicably resolved in the court and with the lands departments.
Without evidence of title to any land proposed for building development local authorities cannot issue the necessary consent or permits for project implementation. With rapid physical development all over, land-related disputes, without fast track court judgments which can facilitate development approvals, contribute to push developers into developing their properties illegally instead of losing huge sums used in acquiring such lands.
Development control courts or development fast track courts, if considered" and established, can look into or handle many such land ownership disputes,. ensure’ fast-track handling of the cases and pronounce clear and quick judgments to has ten building permit administration.
Departments responsible for land administration should restructure or put in,; place ’effective’ means to" assist - with’ necessary information that can facilitate a, faster approach in processing building permits. This is because the expansion of our townships and cities is so rapid that legalization of physical structures, if not radically reformed may rather engender highly dangerous” and unacceptable physical development that would in the vulgarized, a situation . that may rather create very unsafe building edifices.
Flawed building development proposals authored by incompetent technical people often do not meet required standards and requirements by the- authorities. Recommended amendments; are often not Satisfactorily executed, a situation that causes further delays when considering applications.
When such desperate situations arise, competent practising professional architects, planners and engineers conversant with local authorities’ requirements should be engaged to prepare building proposals so as to avoid or limit key technical shortcomings which frequently contribute to permit refusal with associated delays.
Registered architects, engineers and other technical people who did not author but just endorse building plan proposals meant for permits for a fee should be dealt with when such applications are found to be grossly unsatisfactory. When associations of these professionals liaise closely with the various assemblies, the best ways of administering building and planning controls in our towns can be found.
The Department of Town and Country Planning in each district procedurally receives building permit applications. Such applications are further channelled through statutory planning committees and other key departments before the final permit is granted. Current ’ submission and processing procedures, however, leave much to be desired in most districts.