Town planners’ collective says ordinance lacks clarity

The Kerala Town and Country Planning Ordinance 2013, which came into effect following the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution, was a much needed step towards replacing outdated town planning Acts of the colonial era. But a lack of clarity in certain clauses could affect master plans of local bodies, including the Thiruvananthapuram City Corporation’s Draft Master Plan, which was published earlier this year.

Though the Corporation’s master plan was prepared as per the old Travancore-Kochi Town Planning Act 1108, further steps in its implementation would be according to the new Ordinance. The master plan has been stuck in the ‘incorporating objections and suggestions’ stage for the past several months.

In November, the Kerala chapter of the Institute of Town Planners, a collective of town planners, sent a list of suggestions to the Local Self-Government Department to bring more clarity to the Ordinance. An anomaly that the institute pointed out was that the Ordinance would lead to ‘multiplicity of plans’.

The first case of multiplicity is that Section 51(3) of the Kerala Municipalities Act as well as the new Ordinance empowers every municipality to prepare a master plan. But, it is not clear whether both these Acts are talking about different plans or the same plan.

Another case of duplication is with respect to the District Planning Committee, which has to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole to address matters of common interest between the panchayats and the municipalities, including spatial planning, sharing of water, and other physical and natural resources.

“The new Ordinance proposes a ‘perspective plan for districts’ under Section 13, while ignoring the comprehensive district plan of Kollam, which has been cited as a model plan by various Central agencies, including the Planning Commission. This district-level plan should work as a comprehensive framework for all local bodies, which is not the case with this Ordinance,” says the former Senior Town Planner and chairman of the Kerala Chapter of the Institute of Town Planners Jacob Easow.

The institute says the provision for Joint Committee for Joint Planning Area in Chapter 6 of the Ordinance is impractical. It also highlights the differences between the preamble of the Ordinance and its contents.

According to the preamble, the Ordinance is for ‘the promotion of planned development and regulation of growth of urban and rural areas in the State, with focus on scientific spatial planning’. But this focus on spatial planning is not seen in the contents of the plan, says Mr. Easow.

Chief Town Planner T.M. Sudha, who was part of the team that prepared the Ordinance, told The Hindu that the concept of the plan follows the guidelines as laid out in the constitutional amendment. The required corrections in the wordings would be made when it is finalised, she said.