Development control is a function of the national and county governments to regulate use of land and development. Building regulations set minimum requirements for safe, healthy, energy-efficient and accessible buildings. To guarantee that these requirements are applied, a building control system is indispensable.

The Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) recently commissioned a survey to assess the state of development control for 10 counties in Kenya. The 10 counties include Nairobi, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kakamega, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nyeri, Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado.

Findings from the report show that six of the 10 counties did not have zoning regulations while only four counties (Nairobi, Kajiado, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu) have zoning regulations. However, nine of the counties have a County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP).

Of the 10 counties, Nairobi county had the highest number of procedures for developers to secure building approvals (seven) where most counties have just five.

Nakuru county had the highest duration for processing planning approvals, ranging between 30-90 days while it takes just 14-30 days in most counties. Nyeri county had the shortest planning approval duration, taking 2-14 days.

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A global comparison shows that Kenyan developers have to undertake 16 regulatory procedures on average, which takes about 159 days while South Africa requires 20 procedures for 155 days. In the United Kingdom, the nine procedures required take 86 days.

Kisumu has the highest planning approval fees, as high as KSh. 250,000 in some instances, followed by Mombasa (KSh. 150,000) and Nairobi (KSh. 120,000). Most high costs are incurred when seeking change of use approvals and extension of use.

Mombasa, Nairobi and Kiambu counties are also the counties with the highest fees for building plan approvals.

Kiambu and Machakos have the highest number of staff responsible for development control, at 40 and 31 respectively while most counties including Nairobi have less than 15 professionals according to the report.

According to the survey, expansive counties have very few development control staff, which has compromised their effectiveness in development control processes. In Kisumu and Kakamega some of the staff are on contract, and due to low capacity, Kakamega County involves ‘askaris’ in enforcement of development control processes.

Developers in some counties have to pay county staff to facilitate faster approval. According to the report, facilitation fees in Mombasa are so high (up to KSh. 1,000,000) that developers are moving to neighboring counties to invest there. In most other counties, a maximum of KSh. 100,000 is taken.

The report recommends that the counties reduce the number of procedures to 9 like UK or 6 like Rwanda as well as standardizing the number of procedures across the counties. It also calls for harmonization of system of calculating fees in counties among other recommendations.