The national capital, Accra, needs a comprehensive structure plan, with proper implementation strategies, to resolve the continuous sprawling of the city.
According to the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA), Kwadwo Yeboah, the management of developments in Accra would be difficult in the next two to three decades if efforts were not made to institute an effective land use and spatial plan to guide its physical growth and development.
Speaking at the opening of a day’s workshop on the preparation of a structured plan for the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) in Accra on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, Mr Yeboah said the untidy manner in which Accra was spreading, without adequate infrastructure, was “disturbing, expensive to manage and unsustainable in the long run.”
“It is worth noting that both the core and the peripheral areas of Accra are being developed without recourse to planning regulations. Accra is challenged with uncontrolled urban expansion, slum development and squatter settlement, indiscriminate siting of temporary structures, unauthorised building extensions and change of use, rampant litigation, proliferation of land guards, as well as natural disasters such as floods,” he observed.
The workshop, which was held for planners from metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) from the GAMA, representatives from the Department of Urban Roads (DUR), as well as the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Hydrological Services Department, was to serve as a platform for the review and seek inputs for the preliminary reports for the structure plan for GAMA, sensitise the respective stakeholders and also create awareness among the public of the significance of spatial planning to sustainable development in human settlements.
The proposed structure plan, which is being spearheaded by the LUSPA and the DUR, is envisaged to ensure spatial sustainability in GAMA and ensure that the spatial conditions of Accra can enhance its power to generate social, economic and environmental value and well-being.
Need for new structure
Making a case for a new structure plan for Accra, the LUSPA CEO said rapid urbanisation was fast becoming the pre-eminent development challenge in the management of urban settlements, including Accra.
He emphasised that spatial planning was the fulcrum around which all development interventions should revolve, saying: “If we get it wrong, all other developments will follow suit.”
Mr Yeboah added that a recent monitoring in all 261 MMDAs revealed that majority of the MMDAs were not adhering to land use and spatial planning laws.
For instance, he said, “most MMDAs do not have spatial plans to guide physical development, while development permits are issued without recourse to spatial plans”.
“Another challenge, which is not just worrisome but scary, is the payment of permit fees upfront,” he said, adding: “This has compounded the challenge of haphazard, uncontrolled and uncoordinated physical development in our urban areas.”
Mr Yeboah traced the history of spatial plans for Accra from 1875, but said in 1958, the then Town and Country Planning Department spearheaded the first comprehensive master plan for Accra under a strict master planning concept.
That plan, he explained, recognised planning as a large design project, outlined the basic structure of Accra and made proposals for the development of suburbs, including Cantonments, Kaneshie and Osu, as well as principal roads, which included the Ring roads, the Independence Avenue and the Accra-Tema Motorway.
To that end, he said, the 1958 plan continued to provide the basic guiding framework for managing and controlling land use and development in Accra.
He, therefore, called on all MMDAs to use their mandate as planning authorities to ensure proper land use and spatial planning to better the wellbeing of the people.
Giving an overview of the project, the Director of the DUR, James Amoo Gottfried, said a comprehensive structure plan for the GAMA was part of the loan agreement signed between the government and the African Development Bank as part of the implementation of the Accra Urban Transport Project.
The other components, he said, were the urban transport works, which he said included the four-tier Pokuase Interchange, community support and also institutional support.
Mr Amoo-Gottfried said the objective of the structure plan, which is part of the project management component of the loan agreement, was to guide the development and redevelopment of urban areas, towns and their peripheries within the GAMA.
A Senior Transport Infrastructure Engineer at the AfDB, Sheila Akyea, intimated that the bank looked forward to the engagement of professionals, academia, landowners and users to make sure the plan, after its development, moved to the implementation stage and became a reality.
She said the transition of the country from lower to middle-income status brought with it development challenges, including rapid urbanisation, which led to increased social and economic deterioration.
Mrs Akyea said the structure plan was, therefore, expected to be strategic, provide a vision and a programme of action to guide the shaping of the project.