The application of an Urban Sprawl Index for comparative purposes in towns and cities in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

Anele HORN, Amanda Van Eeden


As a result of the challenges posed by continued urbanisation, a vast body of literature is devoted to the incidence and effects of urban sprawl in metropolitan areas. In South Africa the last two decades witnessed a proliferation of legislation and spatial policies to limit urban sprawl and contain the physical expansion and development of urban areas.  The measurement of the successes or failures of these instruments has remained a largely unattainable goal, mainly as a result of the multifaceted nature of urban sprawl, the unavailability of comparable data over a reasonable time-period, and the absence of an appropriate measure of proportionate comparison. This research proposes an Urban Sprawl Index as a tool to comparatively analyse the extent of urban sprawl between cities and towns of different sizes, making use of cadastre, land use and population data over time. In 2005, the Provincial Spatial Development Framework of the Western Cape Province, South Africa stated that an Urban Edge shall be drawn around all villages, towns and cities in the province with the primary function to contain outward growth of urban settlements. Subsequently municipal urban edges have been delineated and are presently reflected in most municipal Spatial Development Frameworks in the province. The Urban Sprawl Index (USI) for the Western Cape put forward by this research will enable the comparative measurement of the extent of urban sprawl proportionately between the Metropolitan and local municipalities in the province and thereby aid in understanding the development dynamics and pressures experienced by individual cities.

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