Cape Town has approved new by-law changes – including new rules for cell towers and Airbnbs

The City of Cape Town has approved amendments to its Municipal Planning By-law (MPBL).

The city said that the amendments are part of its annual review process, and give effect to the policies and strategies that have been adopted by its council over the past few years.

As these amendments have not been promulgated in the provincial gazette they are not in effect as yet.

“We used all available resources to alert residents to the proposed amendments, and to encourage all concerned to submit their comments,” said the city’s Marian Nieuwoudt.

“All-in-all we received 131 submissions from residents, ratepayers’ associations, organisations, and other interested parties and I want to thank them for their valuable input.”

Some of the biggest changes are outlined below.


Short-term letting

A new provision allows for short-term letting from a house or flat for a period not exceeding 30 consecutive days.

This is in response to the increase in short-term letting via online platforms such as Airbnb, the city said.

“Many submissions supported this provision as it will contribute to our local economy and tourism sector, and job creation.

“We recommend to body corporates, homeowners’ associations and the like to control or prohibit short-term letting in accordance with their own rules and to address issues of security or behaviour,” said Nieuwoudt.


Cell towers

The city has approved new provisions that allows for the installation of minor freestanding cell masts on properties zoned as ‘community use’, ‘transport use’ or ‘agricultural use’.

This includes buildings such as:

  • churches;
  • schools;
  • clinics;
  • hospitals;

These buildings will be allowed to install minor freestanding cell masts (of less than 12 metres in height) or minor rooftop masts (of less than 1.5 metres in height) without prior land use approval from the city or adjacent landowners, the city said.

However, it noted that building plan approvals may still be required.

Buildings which have been zoned for residential use may also a minor rooftop cell mast of less than 1.5 metres, however, this still requires planning permission.

“One of the main purposes of these provisions is to ensure the infrastructure is less unsightly and to minimise the impact on the local character of an area where the infrastructure is installed,” said Nieuwoudt.

“I want to add that the city is not mandated to regulate health-related matters where telecommunication is concerned. However, all network providers must comply with the requirements of the National Department of Health and the ICNIRP standards on nonionising radiation protection with respect to safety standards.”


Denser properties

A new provision allows for a third dwelling as an additional use right for properties zoned as single residential.

This means that a property owner is allowed to add a third dwelling on the property without prior approval from the city, subject to the normal development rules of the property and specified additional conditions (conditions would typically determine the size and height of the third dwelling),

The construction of a third dwelling is also subject to the city directors’ confirmation that there is sufficient service capacity in the area such as water, sanitation, and electricity services to support the dwelling.

The property owner is still required to submit a building plan to the sity which must be approved before construction can commence, and the city may require a third dwelling to have the same architecture like that of the main dwelling house.

“Cape Town has very limited land available for development; it is a precious resource. Densification is necessary to curb urban sprawl and to ensure we use the available land to its full potential,” said Nieuwoudt.

“By prioritising denser, transit-oriented growth and development the city seeks to create more inclusive communities with access to improved services, job opportunities, and affordable housing and public transport.”


Read: A look at the new R14 billion Harbour Arch development in Cape Town

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Cape Town has approved new by-law changes – including new rules for cell towers and Airbnbs