Ten years ago, Kiambu county was a purely agricultural zone with green lush vegetation of coffee and tea plantations. It was a major supplier of fruits, vegetables, milk and other foodstuffs to Nairobi residents. But not anymore!
Lately, the region has opened up for property development with developers invading prime land to build homes for commercial services to accommodate an already bulging Nairobi population.
County Lands Officer Jotham Kilimo in an interview said owing to its proximity of Nairobi, the county is becoming rapidly urbanised, with most farms being used for commercial, industrial parks and real estate investments.
He said there are tens of construction sites within the county, a key indicator that many farmers have resorted to real estate investment as an alternative economic activity after poor returns from tea and coffee.
Kilimo, however, expresses concern that most farmers have subdivided their land to very small plots, which are not economically viable. He said the county government intends to enact several laws to control land use in the region.
Although the County Government Act 2012 gives devolved units authority to plan, coordinate developments and enforce planning, there are still challenges in the enforcement of the law.
To be effective, there is need to intensify public awareness among landowners, on the importance of land planning.
“Landowners in the county should adhere to conditions provided for under their Change of User agreements to avoid interfering with other landowners,” he said.
Kilimo accused some landowners of not following conditions that were agreed upon after they changed land status from freeholds to leasehold saying that real estate developers are required by law to set aside 10 per cent of the total size of their piece of land for public utilities such as markets, parking and playgrounds.
He warned developers against using portions that were originally meant for industries, saying such a move would go against the county physical planning policies, adding that this would be stopped and legal actions taken against them.
“Real estate developers are required by law to apportion part of their land for public utilities. Industries cannot be established side by side with residential houses and therefore those who would want to change land use to industrial need to specify in their applications so that they are advised accordingly,” he said.
The officer advised residents and landowners not to develop their land without consulting the relevant authorities to avoid problems later.
He said the county government through the Department of Physical Planning was ready to give advice on land use, saying this would help in infrastructural development as well as avoid haphazard constructions that would interfere with future growth and supply of basic utilities including electricity, water and sewage, among other necessary infrastructure.
Kilimo explained that landowners or registered physical planners needed to submit Physical Planning Act Forms (PPA1) duly filled and signed to the Lands office to enable the relevant authorities to inspect the proposed construction site to confirm zoning and its compatibility with the intended development.
“Landowners and developers should know that there is a need to contact Lands office when they want to change the use of their land. They will then be required to fill in the PPA1 form after which our officers will visit the location of the proposed construction to confirm the zoning and compatibility of the new user,” the Lands boss said.
Change of, use he said, would involve public participation where development is made public through advertisements both at the site and in the press.
He said after 14 to 20 days if no objection is placed, the applicant would be required to fill in PPA2 in cases of approval and payment of the relevant levies is done to the county government before being cleared to proceed with the intended development.