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Legal and Policy Framework on the Institutionalization of Spatial Planning and adoption of GIS in planning in Counties and National Level in Kenya


Earlier on this year i was involved in a County and National Level Geographic Information Systems Needs Assessment in Kenya.The main goal of the project was to support the Council of Governors in conducting a GIS needs assessment in relation to spatial planning in Kenya by assessing GIS resources (hardware, software, human resources and data) against the existing legislation; and to make recommendations for suitable interventions to enhance spatial planning activities Below are some of the Legal and policy Frameworks identified on the Institutionalization of Spatial Planning and adoption of GIS in planning in Counties and National Level in Kenya.

  1. Constitution of Kenya
  2.  County Governments Act No. 17 of 2012
  3. Urban Areas and Cities Act NO. 13 of 2011
  4. Physical Planning Act 2010
  5. Urban land use planning: monitoring and
    oversight guidelines (National Land Commission)
  6. County Spatial Planning: Monitoring and
    Oversight Guidelines (National Land Commission)
  7. The Spatial Planning Guidelines for Kenya:
    preparation and implementation of county spatial
    plans draft guidelines, Draft Guidelines February
    2017 (Council of Governors, Department of
    Physical Planning)                                                                                                

 In this article we will have a look at the first four Legal and Policy Frameworks.

  1. Constitution of Kenya
    The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is the overarching legal
    framework on all spatial planning and environment related
    issues in the country. As the ultimate law in the country, the
    constitution establishes the two planning levels for which
    spatial planning should be undertaken – the national level
    and the county level. The constitution gives the responsibility
    of monitoring and oversight of land use planning throughout
    the country to the national government, and establishes
    the counties as the planning units within their jurisdictions.
    In particular, the Fourth schedule of the Constitution confers
    the following roles to the National Government:
    • General principles of land planning and the coordination
    of planning by the counties;
    • Protection of the environment and natural resources
    with a view to establishing a durable and sustainable
    system of development;
    • Disaster management; and• Capacity building and technical assistance to the
    The functions of counties, outlined in the fourth Schedule
    include, inter alia:
    • County planning and development, including—
    statistics; land survey and mapping; boundaries and
    fencing; and housing; amongst others;
    • Implementation of specific national government
    policies on natural resources and environmental
    • Disaster management.
    The operationalization of these functions at both the national
    and county levels is the Physical Planning Act Cap 286
    (2010), the Physical Planning Bill 2015 (draft) and the County
    Governments Act 2012
  2. County Governments Act No. 17 of 2012
    The use of GIS in spatial planning in counties in Kenya, as
    well as a requirement for county government to formulate
    various kinds of development plans is embedded in law
    through the County Governments Act No. 17 of 2012.
    Among other things, the act sets the framework for planning
    in counties, establishes the setup for integrating national and
    county planning, makes provisions for the establishment of a
    county planning unit, sets out the objectives and principles of
    county planning, defines the roles of various actors in county
    planning, including those of plan preparation, approval,
    implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and also sets
    the framework for public participation.
    Section 107 of the act defines the types and purposes of four
    types of county plans (a) county integrated development
    plan; (b) county sectoral plans; (c) county spatial plan; and
    (d) cities and urban.
    Section 110 of the act sets out the purpose and framework
    for the establishment of 10 year GIS database based spatial
    plans for counties. It states that,
    110 (1) There shall be a ten year county GIS based
    database system spatial plan for each county, which
    shall be a component part of the county integrated
    development plan providing—
    a. a spatial depiction of the social and economic development programme of the county as articulated
    in the integrated county development plan;
    b. clear statements of how the spatial plan is linked to
    the regional, national and other county plans; and
    c. Clear clarifications on the anticipated sustainable
    development outcomes of the spatial plan.
    According to the act, a “GIS based database system”
    means a geographical information management system
    that integrates hardware, software and data for capturing,
    managing, analyzing and displaying forms of geographically
    referenced information.
    The other three development plans defined by the Act also
    have a GIS basis, as set out in sections 108 and 113.
    Section 108 (3) states that, an integrated development plan
    (a) have attached to it maps, statistics and other
    appropriate documents; or
    (b) refer to maps, statistics and other appropriate
    documents that are not attached but held in a GIS
    based database system
  3. Urban Areas and Cities Act NO. 13 of 2011
    This law provides for the classification, governance and
    management of urban areas and cities; sets the criteria of
    establishing urban areas; and establishes structures for
    participation of residents in planning exercises. The act
    also establishes the framework for sharing information and
    for publicity, including information management at the
    administration level, the terms for requesting information
    by the public and conditions on sharing it; as well as the
    conditions under which the relevant authority may decline to
    issue requested information
    Section 36 to 42 of the act establishes the integrated
    development plans for urban areas and cities by setting their
    objectives, defining the framework for aligning the plans with
    county government plans, the procedures for preparing the
    plans including their content and review, and the structure
    for their approval and adoption.
    Section 36 provides for the establishment of city or municipality GIS systems. It establishes that, 36 (1) (d) (vii) Every city and municipality established under this Act shall operate within the framework of integrated development planning which shall be the basis for the preparation of a geographic information system for a city or municipality. Section 40 further makes provisions for development of land use management systems for cities and municipalities as part of the spatial development framework. The section further articulates that integrated city and urban area development plans should reflect applicable disaster management plans.The requirement for annual review of the development plans (section 42) makes the use of GIS to monitor progress in implementation of the plans very crucial.
  4. Physical Planning Act 2010

The Physical planning Act 2010 (cap 286) revised edition
2012 spells out details of preparation of various physical
development plans and related matters. Because the act
preceded the enactment of the Kenya constitution 2010,
it does not articulate the procedure and processes to be
adopted in preparation of County Spatial Plans. The Act is
being revised through the Physical Planning Bill to align with
provisions of the constitution and the institutional setups
established therein.