Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Town Planning and Estates Management



Costly Chanza: Directorate of Town Planning and Estates Management

Directorate of Town Planning and Estates Management


The day-to-day urban management and planning functions of Blantyre City Council are carried out by the Department of Town Planning and Estates Management.  The Department is structured into three sections namely Town Planning, Estates and Building Inspectorate. A General Administration services section supports these three sections. The Department is headed by the Director of Town Planning and Estates Services, Costly Chanza and deputized by Mathews Mwadzangati. The three sections are headed by Section Heads. The purpose and functions of these sections can be described as follows:

1.1    Town Planning Section

  1. Provision of urban planning services to the City.
  2. Scrutiny of building plans.
  3. Secretariat of Blantyre Town Planning Committee.
  4. Preparation of local physical development plans: urban structure plans, urban layout plans, urban civic plans and subject physical development plans.
  5. Development control and enforcement services.
  6. Management of Planning Projects.

1.2    Estates Management Section

  1. Management of estates: Traditional Housing Areas (Low Cost Housing Areas).
  2. Development of new housing estates.
  3. Identification and allocation of plots to communities.
  4. Upgrading of informal settlements.

1.3    Building Inspectorate Section

  1. Provision of technical services to the Town Planning and Estates Management Sections.
  2. Provision of building and design inspectorate services.
  3. Review of building code of practice.
  4. Provision of land survey, draughting and cartographic services.

1.4  General Administration Services Section

Provision of general administration services to the department in the form of office administration and accounting. It provides financial information on the departmental budget and is responsible for all purchases for the department.


2.1    Corporative Objective

To provide environmentally friendly, high quality, efficient and effective demand driven municipal services in partnership with the individual and corporate residents to attain better quality lives for all residents in the City.

2.2    Development Control Objective

To strengthen urban planning and development control through adherence to building regulations and requirements provided for in the laws governing the development process in the urban areas. This can be achieved through the following: 

2.1.1  Submission of Development Plans

When a piece of land or plot is acquired, a developer is required by Law under the Physical Planning Act 2016 to obtain Planning Permission to develop land and a Building Permit from the City Council. Some minimum criteria should be laid down as part of the application process such as:

  1. Submission of a duly filed application form together with two by-law forms.
  2. A set of four copies of the building plans. These should include floor plan, section, elevation, site and location plans
  3. Submission of notification certificates (e.g. Structural Engineers Certificates I and II).
  4. Title deed or certified true copy of ownership status
  5. Proposed purpose of the development
  6. Proposed schematic plan
  7. Proposed development plan if large scale estate development
  8. Proposed wastewater disposal, sewerage reticulation, domestic water reticulation, electricity reticulation etc
  9. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) if necessary (for industrial, commercial and leisure development.
  10. Proposed accommodation of traffic (for commercial and leisure development)
  11. Prescribed scrutiny fees based on the type of development, land use and/or estimated cost of development.

The submitted building plans are scrutinized by the Directorate of Town Planning and Estates Services for either outright approval, approval with conditions or rejection. This is followed by full Council for ratification of grant of Planning Permission to develop and a Building Permit is issued.
Building Permit allows a developer to start developing within Two Years failure to which the permit elapses and has to be renewed.

2.1.2  Building Inspections

Any construction being undertaken in the city has to be inspected by the Building Inspectors. On the Approved building plans will be attached a set of inspection cards which the developer must fill and forward to the Building Inspectorate. These notices act as a request for Building Inspectors to go and inspect the development.

By Law, the following (6) stages of any construction must be inspected:
There are:

  1. Trenches/bush clearing.
  2. Foundations
  3. Damp proof course
  4. Drainage
  5. Completed up to wall plate and window levels
  6. Completed and ready for occupation

2.1.3  Variations
Sometimes a developer may wish to make internal alterations to an existing structure. In this case building plans showing internal changes must be submitted to Council for scrutiny.

 2.1.4  Certificate of Occupation

When a structure is completed the developer is required to obtain an Occupation Certificate from the Council. An Occupation Certificate is a permit allowing the developer to occupy and start using the structure. This is issued under the Public Health Act.  Building inspectors submit reports of inspection of a complete development to certify whether the construction carried out was in accordance with the approved plan and whether the structure underwent the stages of inspection to ensure that the mixtures and block works were according to the recommended.

2.1.5  Illegal Development

Illegal development occurs when a developer undertakes development without planning permission from the Council.  This may include development of a new structure or making changes to an existing structure or material change of use of the structure.  In some instances, the developer may be required to regularize the development or demolish the structure completely. Before a structure is demolished a Stop Notice or an Enforcement Notice is served on the illegal developer as required under the Physical Planning Act 2016.
The Enforcement Notice gives 30 Days in which the remedy to the breach can be carried out failure to which the structure may be demolished.  The City Council is empowered to recover the cost of demolishing the structure from the illegal developer.

2.1.6  Change of land Use and Re-Designation

The City of Blantyre has undergone major transformation in terms of land use. This has been among other factors due to the inability to expand the Central Business District (CBD) so as to accommodate the increased business activities in the country. The current urban structure plan recommended that land use zoning for all residential plots to the south of Blantyre CBD from Hannover Avenue to Buchanan Road be changed to commercial to accommodate the growing CBD.        What is Land Use Change

Urban land is demarcated into different land uses such as residential, institutional and commercial. This process of demarcation is referred to as zoning. In the recent past, it has been observed that residential areas especially those near the CBD are being encroached upon by other land uses especially commercial activities. The result is a conversion of land use from the originally planned use to another.

There are acceptable and unacceptable uses in as far as change of use is concerned. The acceptable uses include: Office type uses, servicing (i.e. hairdressing, shoe repairs, clothing manufacturing and trading etc.). The Unacceptable uses include car repair, haulage contracting, animal breeding, forging, joinery, storage and processing of dangerous materials e.g. cellulose spraying, upholstery, manufacturing of paper and straw goods etc. The vision is to encourage development which will enhance the quality of life by allowing a mix of compatible and environmentally friendly uses in the residential area.

When a parcel of land is changed from one use to another, it entails that Blantyre City Council would make modifications to the approved Development Plan. The recent trend in Blantyre City where land owners decide to change the use of their land on experimental basis has proved to be a great problem to the Council because it becomes difficult to constantly change the development plan and more still it does not promote sustainable development.        When to apply for Change of Land use

The Physical Planning Act 2016 requires that before land is converted from one gazette use to another, permission should be obtained for its conversion. The implications to change the use of land can be change in property tax. In a situation where one is changing from general residential to commercial, property tax is expected to increase and vice versa. Utility bills are also expected to follow suit. A Penalty fee is payable to the Council in the event that a land owner has started operating before obtaining approval. The existing development is modified to suit the changed use.  This may mean that some changes, and improvement can be done to the development and some facilities that suit the changed use can be introduced. However it should be noted that, such changes should be within the acceptable context of the approved original zoning.

After approval, the Development plan is modified to indicate the changed use, which means that for the applicant to revert back to the previous use, a change of use has to be done following the same process. All permanent changes should be reflected during review processes of the urban structure plan.

2.1.8  What is Re-Designation

Re-designation applies to Statutory Housing Areas and as such the conversion is not for the land but for the building structure. Permission for re-designation is granted by the City Council.


 3.1    Land Use Planning
This, in general terms involves distribution of land uses. It determines which part of land of the city are to be used for housing, industry, commercial or other urban uses and which parts are to be retained as open spaces.
The Town Planning Section is in charge of preparation of land use plans for the City.

 3.2    Methodology

The following are some of the procedures for land use planning:

  1. Identification of the vacant land for planning.
  2. Establish the suitability of the use of land through carrying out of a reconnaissance survey of the area, the terrain of the land with consideration of existing developments if any and surrounding areas.
  3. Concept plans in form of sketches of the proposed plans are prepared for with consultation with the known stakeholders.  The final plans are presented to various Directorates for their input before presenting the same to Town Planning Committee for planning decision.
  4. The layout plans are then sent for numbering and later for surveying to either the Council Surveyor or the Surveyor General depending on the area planned.
  5. Once surveyed, the areas are ready for plot allocations.

3.3    Urban Renewal

This concept entails the re-assessment, and re-planning of already developed but run-down areas of the City as a result changes in the development cycle. The process involves:

  1. Road widening/narrowing and Re-alignment.
  2. Clearance of slums, improvement and rehabilitation.
  3. Recommendation and advocacy for rehabilitation of buildings to conform with modern standards.
  4. Re-gazetting already zoned sites to provide adequate commercial and industrial areas.
  5. Gazetting historical and cultural sites for preservation as   monumental sites.
  6. Urban renewal is an effective tool in maintaining a lively, liveable and sound environment of the city.
  7. It’s also worth to note that for renewal to be successful, there must be a strong and good understanding with the private sector since most of the property in the prime areas are owned by Private individuals and companies.


Maintaining a vibrant, economically attractive city for both investment and doing business.

3.4    Road Side Trading Sites

Temporal trading is one of concepts which was adopted as part of planning of the City in the 15 Years. The concept goes towards addressing the need for creation of employment for urban dwellers. The sites are planned especially on reserved land e.g. wide road reserves, that may not be in use for specified period of time. Activities carried out on these temporal sites include, car washing, Movable canteens and containers, telephone booths, money transfer booths, car selling yards dealing in second hand vehicles, fast food caravans and flower gardens especially in the stream reserves. The approval of using these sites is a short term one renewable every year and can be terminated at any time when the site is needed for use it was gazetted for.

3.5    Regularisation of illegal settlements

This is a planning concept which is yet to be fully adopted to respond to the need for re-organising illegally squatted on land that was developed without a guide or plan as prescribed in the laws governing the development process.
This arise as a result of realisation of the fact that  the illegally invaded on areas do accommodate a lot of people in our city and  instead of demolitions some of the illegal settlements on land which was formerly un surveyed can be adopted with minimum required changes to suit a planned settlement.
The process of legalisation will entail planning, or reorganisation, to provide for the needed services that the occupants omitted when moving on the unplanned land.

The legalised developments will be surveyed and legal ownerships will be issued. It is also worth noting that, the process of regularisation is expensive and requires a lot of time. For this to be achieved the illegal developers may have to bare the whole cost of the planning process through payment of penalty fees. There penalty fees applied which can be paid in full or in instalments.

3.6    Subdivision/Consolidation of land held on Title

Subdivision of land involves demarcating of land held on title into two or more parcels (plots). Consolidation on the other hand involves the merging of two or more parcels of land into one. These Applications for permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1991 and do not absolve the applicant from obtaining any other consent or to refuse the application.

What is required to consolidate/subdivide land

The following are the requirements for a subdivision application:

Six (6) copies of the site plans for the proposed subdivision/ consolidation, including site plan, certified copy of title deed, completed form for subdivision of land

  1. Once plans are submitted with the required information, they are scrutinised by the Council who recommend to either approve with conditions to the plans before planning decision by the Town Planning Committee.
  2. The layout plans are then sent for numbering to either the Council Surveyor or the Surveyor General depending on the area.
  3. The numbered plans are then given to the owners so that they can engage a Registered Surveyor within one year from the date of approval to demarcate the area and the official layout plans are updated based on the subdivision/consolidation. 


4.1    Land Surveying

Demarcating boundary of real property/plots in areas where the City Council has a lease.

4.1.1  Cadastral and Topographic maps creation.

A cadastral map is a map which provides detailed information about real property within a specific area. A cadastral map might be a map of a township which shows the boundaries of all of the parcels within the township. These maps are usually maintained by the Government, and they are a matter of public record.

Topographical Surveys are general surveys of earth/ ground features. These are surveys for both natural and man-made features like rivers, roads, buildings, contours etc.

The survey data captured in cadastral & Topographic maps is used in the Planning Process. The data derived from detail survey of features (Topographical and Cadastral) is used by Surveyors and Planners to prepare base Maps.

4.2    Picking of Structures for Regularisation
This is a typical example of a topographical survey. It is mostly done in unplanned Settlements where structures have been built without a formal Layout map. Picking of structures is an initial process which facilitates the normalisation or Legalisation of buildings and settlements to ensure sustainable development.

4.3    GIS (Geographic Information Systems)

A GIS is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage, and present all types of geographical data. GIS data represents real objects (such as roads, land use, elevation, trees, waterways, etc. The GIS unit collects geo-data and packages it into a geo-database. Blantyre City Council has a geo–database has data covering the whole city. This data is open for both public and private planning purposes. 

5.0              ESTATES MANAGEMENT

The section is charged with the responsibility of managing Council’s property portfolio to ensure that they are managed professionally and efficiently using the best current estate management principles so as to enhance their value to the Council.

The functions of the Real Estate Management Section include:

  1. Management of estates: Traditional Housing Areas (Low Cost Housing Areas).
  2. Development of new housing estates.
  3. Identification and allocation of plots to communities.
  4. Servicing of the Plot Allocation Committee.
  5. Upgrading of informal settlements.
  6. Lease administration.
  7. Performance tracking of the property portfolio.
  8. Facilitating property maintenance.
  9. Facilitation of processing of titles for Council properties; and
  10. Administering property sales and acquisitions.

The Section is also charged with the responsibility of ensuring efficient and timely preparation of the main and supplementary valuation rolls as well as attending to associated queries and provision of general valuation services to the City Council and the general public. The valuation rolls are prepared for the purpose of levying property rates on all rateable properties within the City in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Act 1998 and Land Economy Surveyors, Valuers, Estates Agents and Auctioneers Act. As an oversight responsibility, the section also works closely with the Directorate of Finance in resource identification and mobilization.