Integrated development and the brownfields phenomena

07 Nov 2007

South African local government managers presently face a formidable range of challenges. Over and above the management of the local government institutional transformation processes and associated issues, an equally important management challenge looms, namely the brownfields phenomena. The problem of brownfields impacts widely within South African municipal boundaries. Brownfields are defined as follows: “Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination”. A question that confronts local communities in the 21st century is how to provide needed economic opportunities while, at the same time, avoiding the environmental degradation and social inequity that often accompany past models of development. This question is relevant in all spheres of government but particularly imminent for local government. Relations between communities and nature are, and have always been, complex. The socio-physical impact that unsustainable development within municipalities have on community health and nature, are signals that fundamental problems exist. Brownfields are to be found within most highly urbanised and industrialised South African municipalities. By their very nature brownfields are therefore inseparable from issues of social and economic development. In terms of legislation, South African local governments must submit integrated development plans that set out the authorities’ envisaged development strategies for the future. In the event where the above strategies do not reflect a coherent plan for achieving sustainable development which is set to address the needs of the present communities without compromising the ability of future communities to meet their own needs, local government will not be successfully transformed. What is called for is an integrated environmental management approach amidst the integrated developmental planning and implementation process. In this paper four conditions for the redevelopment of brownfields are identified: community involvement and partnerships, sustainable community development, economic opportunity for business and a strategic vision for urban redevelopment. Arguments are put forward as to why the said four conditions are important to attain sustainable brownfield redevelopment, why the processes of integrated environmental management should be applied in conjunction with integrated development planning and why local government managers have a key responsibility in this regard.