Land Use Change in Kenya: What Is It & How to Go About It?

Physical planning in Kenya falls under the county government’s jurisdiction. You must get approval for land use change before proceeding with development plans.

Changing the use of land in Kenya

Individuals buy and own land, but its use is ultimately decided by the government. Planning and regulation restrict how property can be used to ensure individual and societal well-being. Whenever an investor wants land use change, they must involve the authorities.

In Kenya, land use is controlled by County Governments, and a registered physical planner from the Department of Physical Planning must approve any change of user. Failing to obtain a change of user may lead to repossession of the land by the government. Furthermore, your request to develop land for another purpose may be accepted or denied. 

What Do You Mean by Change in Land Use?

Change of land use is when the property owner changes the current status and use of land by converting it to another state. An investor may buy agricultural land with the intent to transform it into a commercial property.  

The process of land use change is lengthy and sometimes costly. You will have to deal with several professionals and government officials before getting approval to commence development. 

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How to Change Use of Land From Agricultural to Residential

Land use change from agricultural land is common, but the property should go through the proper conversion process before constructing residential structures. The following procedure must be followed. 

  • Any person intending to change the use of land must first start by advertising the same in two local newspapers of wider circulation. The purpose of this is so as to give a 14 days-notice to any person who wishes to object or make any comments regarding the proposed change of user.
  • The investor, through a registered physical planner, will make an application to the relevant County Government for the change of user by filling in PPA 1 form. The form must be duly signed by the physical planner. This process is in pursuant of Section 31 of the Physical Planning Act.  
  • The physical planner prepares the planning brief/report for the site. Preparing and implementing a planning brief/report provides a framework for collecting information about the place and investigating and evaluating its interests. The brief will explain why the change of use aligns with the policy and why it will not negatively affect the land and the neighbouring properties. The process could take from one day to 7 days, depending on the scale of the project. 
  •  The requisite fee will be paid to the respective County Governments, and the receipt annexed to the planning brief/report prepared by the physical planner. 
  • The brief will then be submitted to the County Government’s Department of Physical Planning for approval.  
  • The County Government then receives submissions from the general public on any opposition to the change of use. This process could take up to 14 working days. 
  • The County Government will then review the Change of Use proposal/brief with the public objections received, if any and will pass a resolution, recording reasons regarding its consideration or non-consideration for the change. This process takes a minimum of 20 days and could extend depending on the requirements the County Government wants to be fulfilled. 
  • The authority shall permit by issuing a PPA2 form if it finds that the changes sought are relevant to planning principles, are in the public interest and are not in contravention of any other statute.
  • After approval, the land owner should have the deed plans and the title deeds changed by sending the PPA 2 to the National Land Commission for approval from the Director of Survey and the Director of Physical Planning. 
  • Applicant should get a valuer for the purposes of enhancing land rate. After valuation, the National Land Commission Technical Committee will approve the development. 
  • A re-survey of the property must be done for the purpose of preparing a new title deed and a new land reference number which will have to be approved by the Director of Survey.  
  • The land owner should then surrender the old titles and new deed plan to the registrar, who will file a deed file. Development on the land should start after two years from the date of approval.

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How to Convert Land From Residential Use to Commercial Use

The procedure for obtaining a change of user from residential to commercial is similar to the above process. You will need the following documents;

  • Two duly filled PPA 1 forms in triplicate submitted and signed by a registered physical planner 
  • Planning brief prepared by a Registered Physical Planner (signed accordingly) 
  • Ownership documents (Title Deeds) 
  • Clearance certificates for land rates 
  • Comprehensive Location Plan 
  • Advertisement of the proposal on a) Two local dailies, b) On-site 
  • Application fee receipt 
  • Latest Rates payment receipts 

If the County Government refuses to grant development permission, it has to inform the applicant in writing, explaining the grounds for refusal. The landowner has the option to appeal to the relevant Liaison Committee established under section 13 of the Physical Planning Act.  

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What Are the Factors Affecting Land Use in Kenya?

Land uses in Kenya are affected by several factors like population distribution, social, cultural, economic, and historical factors, as well as ecological and geographic features. Sometimes the government influences land use with incentives.

How Has Land Use Changed?

Kenya’s population has increased over the years leading to the need for more agricultural land as well as residential and commercial properties. As a developing country, the government tries to regulate land use to simulate or restrict development in certain areas to ensure improving conditions. 

In Conclusion

The land use change process in Kenya is lengthy but must be followed to ensure development is in accordance with overall national planning goals. Not following the procedure has severe consequences and may lead to loss of investment when the government decides to repossess the property. 

 READ ALSO:  A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Land In Kenya

Nixon Aswani - Content Strategist
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