BP: What are the main changes that have happened to the Avondale master plan?
SN: We had a scheme which used to guide development in the Avondale Area. This town planning scheme was superseded by the new local plan which became operative on 3 March 2015. The major highlights of the local plan are the rezoning of properties along certain roads in the area. If you are going to apply for offices along those roads you are not required to apply for special consent as in the previous town planning set up. It is a straight forward application where you apply and within a week you get your permit.
This scheme is now allowing offices meaning that small enterprises are able to establish themselves within the areas around the CBD and enjoy relatively low rates and rentals which will help their survival or growth.
The other major highlight in the plan is the expansion of both Avondale and Kensington shopping centres. In the new local plan we now have more than a third of Avondale being rezoned for flats meaning that we are now able to increase density.
BP: Does that mean that property owners can actually build flats and develop the current properties into apartments in the Avondale area?
SN: They can also do further subdivisions. This local plan has actually opened up Avondale to further development and further investment. We have actually unlocked value in this area.
BP: What happens when someone subdivides his or her piece of land? Do they sell the land or it becomes council land?
SN: If someone sub divides his piece of land, he can sell that piece of land to any person who may want to buy it. It does not mean that if one subdivides it becomes council property. It will still remain council private land and that person will sell it to whoever is the highest bidder. If one decides to build flats he or she can engage institutional investors. There are a number of banks or and institutional investors prepared to partner with individuals to build cluster houses.
BP Does that mean that we are likely to see other developments like this around the City Centre besides the Avondale Master plan?
SN: Yes, we are in the process of revising the city centre local development plan. The revision covers areas like Eastlea, Hillside, Arcadia, parts of Belvedere, Newlands, Braeside, Milton Park and the Avenues. We are going to replicate depending on the studies carried out.
BP: Can we then conclude that we are expanding our Central Business District?
SN: We are simply relaxing the planning frameworks in those areas so that it will be easier to establish businesses. At present the operative schemes do not allow businesses in those areas but we are sympathetic to entrepreneurs who may want to establish businesses.
BP So how can we link this development with our ease of doing business initiative and decentralisation?
SN: Previously, it was not possible for one to get a permit for offices. But now one can apply for a permit for offices and get it within a week. We also now allow restaurants in some of the areas for the convenience of the public.
We have areas around Kensington and Avondale Shopping Centre where no commercial activities were allowed. Now it is easy. One can simply convert his property to commercial without having to make an application to City of Harare. One will just need to do building plans, have them approved then establish his commercial business. So it has actually been made easier to establish businesses in the Avondale area.
BP: You said something about the expansion of Avondale and Kensington shopping areas, what is going to happen around those areas?
SN: We are allowing more commercial activities around those areas and setting of professional offices something which the previous scheme did not allow. With respect to the previous scheme, it was not possible to convert your property into offices.
BP: While this might appear like a new initiative along these areas if you move around you will find that some people had already converted some buildings around Avondale and Kensington. What is the difference now?
SN: We are saying if you were operating illegally now you can simply write a letter informing us of the conversion. We will respond within a week. We will then change the rating of your property to commercial rates.
This local plan has regularised commercial activities that were happening within the Avondale area.