The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide is a comprehensively updated and revised version of its predecessor, the Guidelines for Human Settlement Planning and Design, commonly known as the Red Book. The Red Book, published in 2000, was preceded by a series of guideline documents aimed at improving the quality of settlement planning and design.

Historical background

Recognising that the cost of engineering infrastructure and services contributes significantly to the overall cost of housing, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) published the Guidelines for the Provision of Engineering Services in Residential Townships (Blue Book) in 1983. This was followed by the publication of Towards Guidelines for Services and Amenities in Developing Communities (Green Book) in 1988. The intention was to optimise the provision of engineering infrastructure and services by ensuring that they are of sound quality and also acceptable (both financially and technologically) to the recipient communities. The Guidelines for the Provision of Engineering Services and Amenities in Residential Township Development was published next. It was completed in 1992, but, due to the historical political changes in the country at the time, it was only published in 1994. The publication became known as the Red Book because of the colour of its ring binder, as was the case with the Blue Book and the Green Book.

The effect of layout planning on the cost of providing engineering infrastructure and services became increasingly evident, and the guidelines evolved over time to acknowledge this. Subsequent to the publication of the first Red Book in 1994, South Africa experienced significant societal changes that resulted in a new set of human settlement planning and design challenges and opportunities. It became evident that the guidelines may have to be expanded to enhance its contribution to the development of sustainable and vibrant human settlements, as opposed to mere serviced townships. This necessitated the development of the second Red Book. The CSIR was commissioned by the (then) National Housing Board to coordinate the development of the document, and it was published in 2000. It was titled Guidelines for Human Settlement Planning and Design, which reflected a more integrated, holistic approach to settlement planning and design.

The 2000 version of the Red Book was the result of a collaborative effort by several government departments under the auspices of the (then) Department of Housing. Mutual concern for the quality of the built environment and the country’s natural resources, as well as a common recognition of the role that human settlement planning and the provision of engineering services plays in its protection or destruction, was the catalyst for this multi-departmental cooperation.

The need for the guidelines to be revised and updated

The understanding of human settlements has evolved significantly internationally and locally during the past two decades. This, together with substantial shifts in priorities and values, prompted the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) to embark on a process to revise and update the 2000 Red Book. The intention was to develop a document that would give guidance on local responses to global challenges, especially climate change and its relation to the built environment, and to bring the theoretical approaches to settlement making in line with the latest research and current thinking as reflected in various government policies, programmes, frameworks and strategies.


Furthermore, technologies and processes developed in recent years needed to be incorporated into the guidelines, while the challenges facing South African society needed to be acknowledged and the opportunities highlighted.

The process to develop a new Guide

The DHS embarked on an extensive and inclusive process to produce a document that would provide practical neighbourhood planning and design guidance and contribute to the development of settlements that are vibrant, safe, integrated and inclusive. The CSIR, as the custodian of the Red Book, was responsible for the management of the process, the coordination of the various contributors, and the preparation of the final document.

The process to develop a new Guide involved an extensive consultation process, a range of assessments and studies, and the preparation of content by numerous specialists supported by various reviewers. The consultation process included semi-structured interviews with a wide range of role players including officials from relevant government departments and entities, municipal officials and councillors, academics, researchers, communitybased organisations, non-government organisations, and private sector built environment professionals (e.g. engineers, urban designers, urban planners, architects and landscape architects).

A Project Steering Committee (PSC) was established to provide strategic guidance with respect to the approach to settlement planning, design and development that the Red Book should be advocating. It also played an advisory role regarding the philosophy and principles that should underpin the guidelines, as well as current and envisaged policy directions. The PSC comprised of individuals with appropriate experience representing a range of stakeholders, including the DHS and its entities, key government departments, civil society, the CSIR and councils for the various built environment professions.

Teams of specialists from the CSIR and various other organisations were assembled to prepare the content of the document. The different sections required teams with expertise in the fields of, amongst others, urban planning and design, architecture, landscape architecture and engineering. Each writing team was supported by a domain-specific Thematic Reference Group (TRG). The TRGs supported the authors by providing direction with respect to the information and guidance to be included in the different sections. They also had to ensure that the technical content is accurate and appropriate. The TRGs consisted of domain specialists from, for instance, relevant government departments, built environment practitioners, and recognised academics and researchers.



The Department of Human Settlements

The development of The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide was initiated, coordinated and funded by the national Department of Human Settlements.


A wide range of individuals and organisations were involved in one way or another in the development of The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide. The development process commenced in March 2015, and numerous people made contributions at different stages of the project. These individuals, and their affiliations at the time of their involvement, are listed below.

Contract Management Committee

Joseph Leshabane Deputy Director-General: Programmes and Projects Management
Department of Human Settlements
Neville Chainee Deputy Director-General: Human Settlements Strategy and Planning
Department of Human Settlements
Kenny Kistan Manager: Strategic Contract Research and Development
Dr Pravesh Debba Competence Area Manager: Spatial Planning and Systems
Aubrey Matshego Acting Chief Director: Human Settlements Planning
Department of Human Settlements
Tinus Kruger Research Group Leader: Sustainable Human Settlements

Core project team

Aubrey Matshego Department of Human Settlements (Project manager)
Mahlatse Modiba Department of Human Settlements
Tiny Nkonyane Department of Human Settlements
Luanne Werner Department of Human Settlements
Tinus Kruger CSIR (Contract manager)
Engela Petzer CSIR (Project leader)
Thuli Ndlovu CSIR
Azra Rajab CSIR


Project Steering Committee

Joseph Leshabane Department of Human Settlements
Neville Chainee Department of Human Settlements
Aubrey Matshego Department of Human Settlements
Anton Arendse Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB)
Diane Arvanitakis South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP)
Karishma Busgeeth Housing Development Agency
Nonhlanhla Buthelezi Department of Human Settlements
Stefanie Chetty Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Nandi Dube Department of Water and Sanitation
Sabelo Duma Department of Transport
Johan Goosen South African Council for the Landscape Architectural Profession (SACLAP)
Sifiso Hlatswayo Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Thandeka Kabeni Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Tinus Kruger CSIR
Abena Kwayisi Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Martin Lewis South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN)
Themba Mabaso Federation for the Urban Poor (FEDUP)
Musa Maluleke National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC)
Motebang Matsela Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)
Bekubuhle Mbentse Department of Water and Sanitation
Hayley McKuur Department of Human Settlements
Nana Mhlongo Council for the Built Environment
Cindy Mlangeni Federation for the Urban Poor (FEDUP)
Simon Moganetsi Department of Environmental Affairs
Alfred Mocheko Department of Environmental Affairs
Lebogang Mojanaga Department of Energy
Mpofu Mthokozisi Department of Energy
Ngodiseni Musetha Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Sizwe Mxobo Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)
Dr Mark Napier CSIR
Elsie Neluvhalani Department of Transport
Eamonn O’Rourke South African Council for the Landscape Architectural Profession (SACLAP)
Christine Platt Commonwealth Association of Planners
Lee Rosenzweig National Treasury
Simphiwe Sibiya Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
Maureen Sikepu Federation for the Urban Poor (FEDUP)
Nompumelelo Siyaya Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Alison Tshangana South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
Louis van der Walt Department of Human Settlements
David van Niekerk National Treasury
Ahmedi Vawda Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation
Diet von Broembsen Settlement policy consultant


Authors and content developers

Jacques Calitz EOH Industrial Technologies
Dr Tony Ceronio EOH Industrial Technologies
Cobus Compion EOH Industrial Technologies
Dr Antony Cooper CSIR
Dr Morris de Beer CSIR
Dr Louw du Plessis CSIR
Louiza Duncker CSIR
Amanda Gibberd Department of Transport
Cheri Green CSIR
Jacques Calitz EOH Industrial Technologies
Frank Haupt EOH Industrial Technologies
Jacques Calitz EOH Industrial Technologies
Gary Hayes CSIR
Mluleki Hlatshwayo CSIR
Julius Komba CSIR
Tinus Kruger CSIR
Kobus Labuschagne CSIR
Henri Linde EOH Industrial Technologies
Annemarie Loots Urban planning consultant
Erik Loubser EOH Industrial Technologies
Livison Mashoko CSIR
Dr Martin Mgangira CSIR
Dr Mathetha Mokonyama CSIR
Lorato Motsatsi CSIR
Nicholas Moult EOH Industrial Technologies
Zanele Mpanza CSIR
Crescent Mushwana CSIR
Dr Mark Napier CSIR
Dumisani Ndaba CSIR
Thuli Ndlovu CSIR
Dr Suzan Oelofse CSIR
Engela Petzer CSIR
Azra Rajab CSIR
Nosizo Sebake CSIR
Mamahloko Senatla CSIR
Wilma Strydom CSIR
Dr Henerica Tazvinga CSIR
Jurie van der Merwe EOH Industrial Technologies
Llewellyn van Wyk CSIR
Gustav Vlok EOH Industrial Technologies
Jarrad Wright CSIR


Thematic Reference Groups

Prof Neil Armitage University of Cape Town
Dr Mark Bannister Department of Water and Sanitation
Adele Bosman University of Stellenbosch
Chris Brooker CBA Specialist Engineers
Samuel Chauke Department of Human Settlements
Prof Chrisna du Plessis University of Pretoria
Jonny Harris Isidima Design and Development
Prof Heinz Jacobs University of Stellenbosch
Leslie Johnson Department of Transport
Dr Nonhlanhla Kalebaila Water Research Commission
Mike Krynauw City City of Tshwane
Prof Karina Landman University of Pretoria
Yashaen Luckan South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP)
Thando Madonsela Housing Development Agency
Thiatu Manenzhe Housing Development Agency
Lunga Mankazana Department of Energy
Nokwazi Maphumulo KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements
Lebogang Mojanaga Department of Energy
Ernest Mokoena Department of Social Development
Tshepo Mokwena Department of Energy
David Mpye University of Pretoria
Mukundisi Nefale Department of Human Settlements
Helene Nienaber Department of Public Works
Amy Pieterse CSIR
Dr Sudhir Pillay Water Research Commission
Ryan Roberts South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
Sheena Satikge-Sibisi Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Grace Sekgota Department of Transport
Duduzile Singeni Department of Human Settlements
Aretha Steenkamp Department of Social Development
Herman Steyn City of Cape Town
Steve Szewczuk CSIR
Willemien van Niekerk CSIR
Frans van Wyk South African Council for the Landscape Architectural Profession (SACLAP)
Prof Kobus van Zyl University of Cape Town
Dr Kevin Wall University of Pretoria
Melanie Wilkinson Sustento Development Services


Consultation process

Consultation sessions were held in all nine provinces and included a wide selection of organisations and entities representing various sectors. While it is not practically possible to list the names of all the individuals who participated in the consultation process, their valuable contributions are sincerely appreciated.

In total, more than 770 individuals were consulted, and almost 80 consultation sessions took place across SouthAfrica. Organisations and entities that were consulted include local, district and metropolitan municipalities, national and provincial government departments, statutory bodies, Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), private sector companies, professional bodies, and academic and research institutions. In addition, various events and platforms were used to raise awareness, as listed below.

Awareness-raising events and platforms

Smart and Sustainable Built Environment (SASBE) Conference 2015 December 2015, Pretoria
Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Informal Settlements April 2016, Pretoria
National Spatial Planning and Land Use Management (SPLUM) Forum May 2016, Kempton Park
Annual Conference of the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) May 2016, Durban
Department of Human Settlements and SALGA Round Table on Planning, Design and Development of Integrated Human Settlements June 2016, Kempton Park
Department of Human Settlements - Internal Workshop June 2016, Pretoria
South African Planning Institute (SAPI) Conference: Planning Africa 2016 July 2016, Johannesburg
National Human Settlements Conference October 2016, Pretoria
Department of Human Settlements Civil Society workshop March 2017, Kempton Park
Habitat for Humanity Practitioners’ Forum June 2017, Cape Town
SALGA: Western Cape Human Settlements Working Group August 2017, Cape Town
Council for the Built Environment 27 September 2017, Pretoria
SALGA Focus Group Workshop May 2018, Pretoria
South African Planning Institute (SAPI) Conference: Planning Africa 2018 October 2018, Cape Town
National SPLUM Forum November 2018, Kempton Park

Special acknowledgements

Language consultants Isabel Claassen, Marinus Claassen
Design, layout, website Blackmoon design and advertising
Photos CSIR and the Department of Human Settlements, unless specifically credited
CSIR Dr Pravesh Debba, Kenny Kistan, Jo-Anne Chauvet, Martiena Maabe, all members of the Spatial Planning and Systems Competence Area
Department of Human Settlements Antoinette Fivas, Maria Sebelebele, Lily Mahlo, Constance Ramathwala


Structure of this Guide

This Guide is divided into two parts. Part I contains sections A to E, while sections F to O make up Part II. The sections are colour-coded for ease of navigation.

Part I: Setting the scene

This part contains background information that frames the environment within which the Guide will be applied. The term ‘human settlement’ is defined, the human settlement context in South Africa is briefly discussed and key global trends and challenges are highlighted. A vision for human settlements in South Africa is formulated based on international imperatives and the local regulatory environment. Against this background, the purpose, nature and scope of the Guide are explained.

In addition, the sphere of influence of this Guide is defined in terms of the phases involved in neighbourhood development projects. The positioning of this Guide within the broader regulatory environment is clarified, and the importance of adopting an integrated approach when implementing the Guide is emphasised. The factors to consider when applying the guidelines, including the application context and the type of development, aredescribed. The need to involve all stakeholders in the planning and design process is emphasised and the importance of inter-disciplinary collaboration, community participation and co-production is explained.

Part II: Planning and design guidelines

A series of guidelines dealing with the planning and design of services and infrastructure is presented in this part. Practical information is provided regarding settlement layout, housing, social facilities, public open space, transportation, water, sanitation, stormwater, solid waste management, energy and a number of cross-cutting issues. The information in sections F to N is structured in the same format as follows:

  • An outline of the section that also contextualises the theme of the section in relation to the other aspects addressed in the Guide.
  • A discussion of universal considerations, which ensures that key aspects are considered from the outset. This includes a brief summary of the applicable regulatory environment, an outline of the key objectives to be strived for when applying the planning and design guidelines provided in the particular section. Furthermore, possible approaches and strategies that could be employed to achieve the objectives, as well as concepts and trends related to the theme of the section, are highlighted. Attention is also drawn to the contextual factors that should be considered regarding the type, nature and setting of the development project being implemented.
  • Planning considerations are discussed next. Planning in this context means making decisions regarding the type and level of service that will be provided. To make informed decisions, a thorough understanding is required of the context within which the planned development will be implemented. This section outlines a range of factors that have to be considered before deciding on the type and level of service that will be provided and the associated systems and infrastructure that will have to be designed. It provides guidance that will assist in understanding what is needed, and what is available. Various options of the types and levels of service that could possibly be considered are discussed.
  • Finally, design considerations are outlined. Detailed guidance is provided, explaining how to design thesystems and infrastructure relevant to each section.


At the end of Part I and the end of sections F to O, a glossary and a list of acronyms and abbreviations are provided, as well as endnotes containing references, explanatory notes and acknowledgements.

Where information relevant to a particular discussion is provided in other sections of the Guide, those sections are cross-referenced to encourage an integrated approach to decision-making when applying the guidelines. More information regarding the application of the guidelines is provided in Section C and Section D.

Text boxes are used to emphasise some of the information provided in this Guide. The following symbols indicate the reason why the information is highlighted:

More detailed information is provided about the issue under discussion
Important considerations to be aware of are highlighted
Relevant content from a complementing resource is presented


A The human settlements context

B A vision for human settlements

C Purpose, nature and scope of this Guide

D How to use this Guide

E Working together



F Neighbourhood layout and structure

G Public open space

H Housing and social facilities

I Transportation and road pavements

J Water supply

K Sanitation

L Stormwater

M Solid waste management

N Electrical energy

O Cross-cutting issues

Planning and designing safe communities

Universal design


Postal address
The Department of Human Settlements
Private Bag X644

Call centre
0800 146873


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The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide
Creating Sustainable Human Settlements

Developed by
Department of Human Settlements

Published by the South African Government
ISBN: 978-0-6399283-2-6
© 2019