Just recently we were informed the Government had engaged the services of Dr. Liu Thai-Ker a renowned planner and architect from Singapore to help remodel Accra.

The state of our built environment leaves a lot to be desired. Our systems and structures designed to manage the built environment development have totally broken down.

With this state of affairs, one wonders whether there are Architects, Planners, Surveyors and Engineers in the country. To understand this better you need to watch the video on “What happened to spatial planning?” and listen to an experienced planner, Kwadwo Yeboah.

He dismisses the view that Accra is not well planned but rather argues Accra is not well built. He contends that the problem is with the lack of implementation of the plans developed to guide the growth and development of the city. According to Yeboah the Town and Country Planning Department prepared schemes are not implemented because of lack of funds. As a result, people are found building at places earmarked for parks, roads and drains.

Today we have our capital and other cities dotted with many uncompleted buildings. Most residential dwellings are built on virgin lands which are far away from basic social and health facilities. The government and local authorities are therefore struggling to cope with infrastructure development needed to service most parts of our cities. You then ask “what brought us here?”

According to the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Ghana abandoned its National Physical Development plan in the mid-1960s. The result led to the creation of informal settlements across the country and haphazard residential property development in Accra and other town/cities. The unwillingness of successive central government to develop and implement a constructive spatial development plan has caused great harm to our built environment.

We can only begin to address these problems if the following act with urgency without fear or favour to uphold and enforce the rules governing our built environment.

  • Central Government and District/Municipal Assemblies
  • Town and Country Planning Department
  • Built Environment Professionals i.e. Architects, Planners, Surveyors and Engineers
  • Land owners – Regional Houses of Chiefs, Family heads and individuals
  • Lands Commission

Special criticism would be levelled against the Chiefs and Regional Houses of Chiefs as an institution. They have failed to capitalise on the important role they play in our society. They have been quick to dispose of their lands to the highest bidder without appreciating the long term strategic economic value of their lands. They sell lands using loop holes in current land sale legislation instead of using the land to create streams of income to support economic development within their traditional area. The built environment professionals have also failed to exert their influence in our society. They have not pushed for tougher rules to regulate built environment developments. In many ways nobody wants to be on collision course with the authorities. The collective failure of these institutions and professionals to speak truth to power and challenge the status quo is harming our future.

Also for many years the Lands Commission’s lack of progress to reform the protocols governing land registrations, acquisition and entitlement has not helped. It takes too long to determine land ownership or transfer ownership. Central Government likewise ought to do more to resource and equip the Town and Country Planning, Local Authorities and all institutions with oversight responsibility to perform their duties efficiently. The engagement of a foreign expert will not necessarily change things if we are not prepared to implement the plans recommended.

In conclusion, Central Government is called upon to revamp our building regulation and codes, strengthen the capacity of local authorities, stop the menace of land guards and setup special tribunals to prosecute chiefs, land owners and property developers who break the law and defraud our fellow citizens for personal gain. Finally to quote Dr Ephraim Amu’s song, YÉ›naraasaaseni” and his call to all of us to do our part. Built Environment professionals remember to raise your voices and that your voice will be heard if and when you raise it.   

Profile: Kwadwo Owusu-Darko is an architect but specialises in Housing. He has over 20yrs experience in real estate development, regeneration and housing management in the UK. He was a Director and Chairman of two Housing Associations. Currently working towards setting up a think tank to support Housing development in Ghana.Email: owudarko@gmail.comPost Comments @Blog: https://owudarko.wixsite.com/website