Concern mounts over new Lagos physical planning, building control regulations

There is growing concerns among professionals in the built environment over the implementation of the new Lagos State Physical Planning Permit and Building Control Regulations 2019. The regulations passed by the State’s House of Assembly at the twilight of last year, were expected to sanitise the building sector and encourage sustainable development in Lagos metropolis.

Although attentions were not paid to previous regulations, experts said the spate of buildings collapse in the state last year spurred the lawmakers into giving legal teeth to the new regulations.Under the new regulation, any developer intending to commence construction work(s) in the state is expected to give seven days notice in writing to the State’s Building Control Agency (LASBCA) of such intention in the prescribed form as provided in Schedule one.

Where a person proposes to carry out construction works which consist emergency repairs and it is not practicable to comply with sub-regulation (1) above before commencing the work(s), the Developer shall give a commencement notice to the agency within seven days after commencement of the work(s).

Also, every developer engaged in construction work(s) in the state is expected to pay to the State’s Building Control Agency (LASBCA) for inspection and stage certification, a sum equal to 20 percent of the Building Plan Assessment fee paid to the Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA) for grant of the planning permit.

Furthermore, any developer wishing to commence building construction work shall submit some documents together with the notice to LASBCA.The documents include, planning permit for the proposed development, sub-soil investigation report in the case of structures above four floors and all developments in areas with low bearing capacity soils, sanitary Inspection and Disinfestation Report by a licensed Environmental Health Officer; a copy each of detailed architectural, mechanical, electrical and structural design as approved.

The regulations also provide site inspection before the commencement of construction, where an Inspector of LASBCA or authorised officer would inspect the construction site.For building stage certification one of the inspectors of the agency competent under the relevant professional laws in Nigeria is allowed to do so.

The regulations allowed for the engagement of competent professionals to carryout structural survey of properties within the project site and ensure actual pictures are taken for record purposes.The certificate shall be obtained on any building on satisfactory completion before occupation. In the event that any defect is observed or alteration is made, the certificate shall be withdrawn or revalidated as the case may be.

The regulations also allowed the supervision of every construction by appropriate qualified professionals, while the registered professional should take responsibility for the project and execute the attestation forms contained in Schedules 5-10 and shall be on-site at all times.Also, any new technique or method of construction not covered by the accepted codes of practice shall only be allowed with the specific approval of the Agency.

The regulation also allowed the Agency to periodically probe all building developments within the State to identify defective and distressed structures.
In the event of the collapse of any property or structure due to the negligence on the part of the owner or developer, such property shall be forfeited to the State government after sue investigation and on publication in the State Official Gazette.

The regulations also include some penalties and fines for contravenors.For example, any person who commences construction work without giving prior notice to the Agency contravenes the provisions of Regulation 1, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N250,000.00) or One (1) month of community service or both.

Any intending developer or his agent or petitioner who gives false information to the agency commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N250,000) or one month of community service or both.Any person who fails to insure his building as required under this regulations commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding N500,000 or one month community service or both.

Any person who carries out construction to a particular stage without obtaining stage certificate for the preceding stage contravenes the provisions of Regulation 8 and commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N250, 000 or one month of community service or both. Any developer of a structure identified to be defective/distressed and fails to produce upon demand by the agency, a Certificate of Structural Stability issued by a registered engineer, is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N250,000 or one month of community service or both.

Any person who causes any building in the State to be occupied without a Certificate of Completion and Fitness for Habitation issued by the agency commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N250,000 or one month of community service or both.Any developer who fails to comply with fire safety requirements commits an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N250,000 and the property shall be sealed until compliance.

Any person who is not a registered builder but who makes a false representation to be a professional on any construction site commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or three months imprisonment or both.However, given the scope of the new regulations and the penalties for contravenors, there are growing concerns over its implementation.

The concerns focused on seemingly serious delays and unnecessary bottlenecks for project take off occasioned by lack of capacity by government agencies expected to implement the regulations.Former president, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Moses Ogunleye said the regulations are long over due and have many robust provisions.

According to him, it is heartwarming that the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development is able to push through the Regulations this time around.“As professional groups we clamoured for its release for almost nine years. The Regulations are the tools for implementing the 2010 Law. “The delay in getting the two regulations signed has slowed down the practice of physical planning , particularly that of Development Control and Building Quality Management .

The principal issue is that the operating agencies – Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority and Lagos State Building Control Agency should be committed to implementing the regulations . The Regulations should bring to end the use of ‘rule of the thumb’ by officials . The requirement for submission of Submission of General All Risk Insurance Policy Certificate by developer as a condition for obtaining Planning Permit for structure of more that two floors should be implemented.

Ogunleye however expressed concerns over the ability or LASBCA official to enforce them.He said: “I’m aware that LASBCA don’t have enough human resources to implement or enforce the Regulations vis- a- vis the volume of construction taking place in the State” .

“The government should consider outsourcing some functions to reputable group of professionals particularly that of monitoring and stage certification. “This will among others speed up the issuance of Certificate of Fitness for Habitation and the Agency more efficient . The Regulations, if well enforced / implemented will change the face of physical planning, ease the process of obtaining a permit , ensure that only technical persons or professionals are involved in physical planning , building design, building production management and maintenance. It will also lead to the production of better quality, safe, functional and beautiful buildings”, he added.

Also, president Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB), Kunle Awobodu said all parts of the regulations are important and could instill discipline in the construction industry and drive conformity with building codes that guide the practice. According to him, the regulations touched different aspect of building construction and should help to reduce the impact of quackery in the industry.
He said: “We are in a nation where there are laws and regulations but are hardly obeyed because the law is not biting , at times, it is like a toothless bull dog.“ So , there is need to attach consequences to the flouting of laws and regulations, once we are able to make some people scapegoats, others will fall in line .
“ If they are sincere with the implementation and there is no compromise along the line, we welcome these contravention fines heartily because it is necessary to get our people to face consequences of flouting regulations. “Building construction is a delicate process, the consequence of maladministration in construction sector is what we have been witnessing through frequent building collapse that endangers lives.

“So the responsibility of managing building production in site should be given to those trained to do so”, he added. But a real estate developer and Managing Director of Realty Point Limited, Debo Adejana, said the implementation may also cause serious delays and unnecessary bottlenecks for project take off. He said: “ I understand that the Government’s major concern is how to reduce and/or even eliminate it building collapse. It is a very good thing to want to do.

The fines are more now and they should serve as deterrent. “I wait to see how the new laws will be enforced without causing serious delays and unnecessary bottlenecks for project take off. “I fear issues of ease of doing business for developers.

Our major issues have never been absence of laws. As project time gets elongated as a result of what it will take to meet up with the new regulations. Project costs will increase and buyers will have to pay for the inefficiencies unfortunately”, he added.

URBAN scientists at the University of Chicago’s Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation released new updates to the Million Neighborhoods Map  – a groundbreaking visual tool that provides the first comprehensive look at informal settlements at a global scale, helping to identify neighborhoods most in need of roads, power, water, sanitation and other infrastructure. First launched in October 2019 displaying informal settlements across Africa, newly mapped regions of the world now include Central and South America, India, and parts of Eastern Europe and Asia.
 
The Million Neighborhoods Map is the first of its kind, aiming to be a complete resource on the state of connective infrastructure in neighborhoods worldwide.The map digitally renders building infrastructure and street networks and classifies each city block with a measure of, or lack of, universal accessibility to its buildings from existing streets. The goal is to provide municipal leaders and community residents with a tool to inform and prioritize infrastructure projects in underserviced neighborhoods, including informal urban settlements, sometimes known as “slums.”
 
Rapid urbanization in Africa, Latin America and Asia over the last few decades has led to massive shifts in population and the rise of informal settlements that operate without roads, power and sewer lines. In neighborhoods in cities such as Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Kathmandu, Nepal, homes are so densely packed that it can be challenging for residents and resources to move through the community, and difficult for urban planners to identify the best areas to build roads, water pipes, power and sewage lines. The map identifies these locations and provides the basis for context-appropriate solutions.
 
The issue is more pressing than ever, as the number of people living in these settlements is expected to triple to three billion in the next 30 years if no large-scale action is taken.  Without access to basic infrastructure, residents of informal settlements are more vulnerable to health risks and the impacts of climate change, including flooding, extreme heat and natural disasters.

 
To create the Million Neighborhoods Map, researches applied algorithms to the open-source GIS database in OpenStreetMap, the “Wikipedia” of world maps. This collaborative data source increasingly includes building footprints and access everywhere in the world and has grown recently in response to a variety of international humanitarian crises, driven by mapping volunteers and enthusiasts from all across the world.
 
“By systematically characterizing the physical connectivity of every community around the world, the Million Neighborhoods Map enables us to identify at-a-glance which neighborhoods are underserviced and in need of expanded infrastructure access. This includes many neighborhoods with mild levels of infrastructure deficits and others that are large informal settlements and require larger levels of effort. Street access to places of residence and work is necessary to creating addresses, providing basic services, building cadastral maps of land uses and property, and enabling emergency services such as medical assistance and fire protection. It is impossible to generate meaningful sustainable development without this kind of basic infrastructure,” said Luis Bettencourt, the Inaugural Director of the Mansueto Institute of Urban Innovation. “Done well with this kind of emerging information, such investments can unleash a virtuous cycle of improvements in living conditions, economic development and novel sustainable solutions.”
 
“The Million Neighborhoods Map sparks a dialogue between the city and its communities, enabling residents to collectively engage around what the data shows and how to move towards actionable intelligence,” said Anni Beukes, Resident Fellow at the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation.  
 

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