The application of an Urban Sprawl Index: comparing towns and cities in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

  • Anele Horn
  • Amanda Van Eeden


The incidence and effects of urban sprawl have been the subject of a great many academic research mainly as a result of the challenges posed by continued urbanisation, especially in developing countries (see inter alia Jenks, Kozak and Takkanon 2008; Mander, Brebbia and Tiezzi 2006; Jenks and Burgess 2000; and Soja 2000). South Africa witnessed a proliferation of legislation and spatial policies to limit urban sprawl and contain the physical expansion and development of urban areas during the last two decades in response to exponential post-apartheid urbanization. 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” (City of Cape Town, 2009) and in parallel the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning published the Western Cape Urban Edge Guideline document assisting all municipalities in the province to delineate urban edges to be included in municipal Spatial Development Frameworks (SDF) thereby illustrating intent on maintaining urban footprints that are compact and limit developments that could be considered urban sprawl. Subsequently municipal urban edges have been delineated and are presently reflected in most municipal Spatial Development Frameworks in the province. This paper presents 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. 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 impact of planning instruments such as urban edges in the context of development dynamics and pressures experienced by individual cities.

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eISSN: 2225-8531