From time to time our communities are invited to take part in the public participation processes of proposed developments. But what does this entail? What is expected from residents or local businesses that may be affected by a proposed development?

The public participation process forms part of the embodiment of the Constitutional right of all citizens to a healthy and safe environment. The process was included in the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations that were initially promulgated in 2004 when the environmental impact assessment process was significantly revised and later amended in 2014.

In a nutshell, public participation entails the involvement of parties that may be impacted by an action that pose a risk to the environment – proposed developments such as new industries, developments that entail change of land use, expansion of roads, building of new dams or where a dam is upgraded to increase its storage capacity, to name a few examples.

The process is regulated in chapter 6 of the 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations and entails a wide range of actions that must be implemented by the entity that handles the authorisation application – these processes include written notices to the owner and occupants of the land on which the proposed development will take place, as well as alternative sites considered in the authorisation application, the municipality, ward councilors for the municipal area, the Ratepayer’s Association representing residents in the immediate area of the proposed development, organs of state that have jurisdiction in respect of any aspect of the proposed development and any other party indicated by the authority who must issue the authorisation, the advertisement in local, provincial or national newspapers or official gazettes and any reasonable alternative methods.

The relevant parties have 30 days to comment on the proposed development and the application reports and documents to the parties mentioned in the notices – the challenge is that these applications often consist of technical reports or information not easily understood by the general public, and neither do we necessarily understand the extent of the proposed developments. If this is the case, readers are advised to consult with local resources who have knowledge about the potential impacts or will be able to identify suitably qualified entities that will be able to explain technical or intricate reports.

Despite the challenges, we as the general public need to be aware of our obligations in respect of the public participation process, we need to ensure that we are informed about the impact of new developments,  that our details are recorded in the interested and affected parties register, that we remain informed about the progress of the application or any amendments to the proposed development and after the authorisation was granted, and lastly that we are informed of our opportunity to appeal against the granting of the authorisation. The appeal stage is the last opportunity to object or provide input about proposed developments. If we notice any site clearance or construction activities on a premises, it is too late and our opportunity to voice our concerns or state our interests in the development is gone and can only be stopped or amended through a complex and expensive legal process.


The short answer is: Get involved and stay involved! Local groups such as the Ratepayer’s Association, environmental groups and even Neighbourhood Watch groups etc. can use their platforms (e.g. on social media) to inform locals about new developments.

As the general public, we can do much to help spread the following information, using our WhatsApp or Facebook groups:

  • News about any documents on new developments at your local library (visit your library regularly and enquire about this).
  • Online documents or other information about new developments from your local municipality (check their websites and/or make enquiries).
  • Advertisements in a newspaper – take a photograph with your cell phone and spread it.


This will go a long way towards residents feeling they were left out of the loop with new developments or disgruntled with developments seemingly undertaken without any input from society.