Construction Permission

Obtain approval of plan from the City Council

Agency: City Council

The general procedure for obtaining the approval of the project plan is as follows:

  • BuildCo arranges for a private engineering consultant to complete the building plans. The plans must be prepared by licensed architects and signed by an engineer. However, the type of engineer is not specified, so they do not have to know anything about construction. There is an abusive practice of architects / engineers signing plans prepared by technicians who worked independently without actually reviewing them simply to obtain the payment.
  • BuildCo completes the “application for permission to develop or to subdivide land” and a by-laws form, and submits the forms and the plans to the City Council with payment of a fee based on the size of the building and the assessed value of the land.
  • The plans and application are then forwarded to a technical panel for consideration. The panel’s members are representatives from the following organizations:
    • Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi
    • Malawi Telecommunications Limited
    • Water Board
    • City Council – Physical Planning Department
    • City Council – Engineering Department
    • City Council – Parks and Recreation Department
    • City Council – Health and Environment Department
    • City Council – Building Department
    • Occupational Safety, Health, and Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labor
    • Malawi Housing Corporation
    • Ministry of Transport and Public Works

The panel reviews the building plans and application and either approves the development or suggests amendments. If the panel requires amendments, BuildCo is notified by mail of the changes required. BuildCo can also contact the City Council by phone or in person to inquire about the status of the application.

A water connection application is filed along with the site plan. If the panel accepts the application, it is forwarded to the Town and Country Planning Committee, which meets monthly. The committee notifies BuildCo by mail and a notice of decision, a legally binding document, and the by-laws form are issued.

The meeting of the City Planning Committee takes place only once a month, and the Technical Panel meets only once every 2 weeks. However, companies may choose to opt for a fast-track option which allows companies to convene an emergency meeting of the Town and Planning Committee at a higher fee charged on top of standard fees. The fee for a fast-track option would be MWK 50,000. In this case, the meeting will take place within about one week of the payment being made. BuildCo will receive an oral decision at the end of the meeting. If there is an affirmative decision, construction can begin right away. The official document will be issued soon after. In practice however, this option is seldom used seldom by companies. Many companies plan ahead of the time and have prior consultations with the municipal officials.

Under normal circumstances under Town and Country Planning Act, the Planning Committee should either approve the application or inform the applicant why it cannot be approved within 60 days of the application being submitted. In reality, this does not happen often. However, the silence-is-consent rule applies. If after 60 days there is no response, construction can begin.

Time and cost: 60 days, MWK 941,432

Submit project brief and obtain certificate of EIA (environmental impact assessment) exemption from Director of Environmental Affairs Department

Agency: Environmental Affairs Department

Unless a project is likely to have a significant environmental impact, project developers can prepare and submit a project brief with little or no assistance from environmental specialists. Since projects and their stage in the project cycle vary widely, detailed guidelines for the content of a project brief are not possible. However, Section 24 of the Environmental Management Act requires that a project brief should at least state:

  • The nature of the project;
  • The activities that shall be undertaken;
  • The possible products and by-products anticipated;
  • The number of people the project shall employ;
  • The area of land, air or water that may be affected; and
  • Any other matters as may be prescribed.

More generally, a project brief should also contain:

  • A basic description of the project purpose, size, location and preliminary design, including any alternatives which are being considered (i.e., site, technology, construction and operation procedures, handling of waste).
  • The stage of the project in the project cycle.
  • A location map of the project site or site alternatives, and a site plan as it is currently known. Maps and plans should conform to the standards discussed below.
  • A discussion of which aspects of the project are likely to cause environmental concerns and the proposed environmental management measures.

Time and cost: 15 days, MWK 5,000

Notify the City Council of the commencement of construction and receive inspection

Agency: City Council

During the construction phase of an approved project, the City Assembly sends out inspectors at various stages of construction. Inspectors from the City Assembly’s Departments of Building, Environment and Health, and Fire join the national-level Occupational Safety, Health, and Welfare Department to inspect the construction site approximately five times. These inspectors come as a team, and there is no charge for these visits.

The Building Department issues six cards that specify when a building should be inspected. BuildCo notifies the inspectors by sending a card at the appropriate stage of construction. The City Assembly inspectors come within 2 days to 2 weeks of notification. However in reality many do not come due to scarcity of resources. In practice, builders continue construction after submitting the notice without waiting for the inspection.

Time and cost: 14 days, no charge

Notify the City Council of foundation excavation and receive inspection

Agency: City Council

Once the excavation phase is reached, BuildCo notifies the City Council and receives inspection

Time and cost: 14 days, no charge

Notify the City Council of brick work foundation and receive inspection

Agency: City Council

Once the brick work foundation phase is reached, BuildCo notifies the City Council and receives inspection

Time and cost: 14 days, no charge

Notify the City Council of damp proof course and receive inspection

Agency: City Council

BuildCo notifies the City Council of the damp proof course phase and receives inspection

Time and cost: 14 days, no charge

Notify the City Council when the construction reaches wall plate level and receive inspection

Agency: City Council

BuildCo notifies the City Council once the wall plate level phase is reached and receives inspection

Time and cost: 14 days, no charge

Apply for water and sewerage connections at the City Council

Agency: Water Board of the City Council

Sewerage services can be obtained by completing a form that asks for technical information about the capacity needed and the location of the pipelines. In practice, the type of construction considered here would include a septic tank.

Time and cost: 1 day, MWK 20,000

Receive water and sewerage inspection by the City Council engineers

Agency: City Council

After the inspection, the cost of extending the sewer pipes to the facilities is estimated, and the BuildCo is informed of how much to pay to complete the connection.

Time and cost: 1 day, no charge

Obtain water and sewerage connection

Agency: Water Board of the City Council

Time and cost: 14 days, no charge

Apply for occupancy permit

Agency: City Council

The fee for the occupancy permit is a debatable matter between officials and construction companies. To define the base for the levying fee, the Municipality has to evaluate the construction cost according to its methodology. In addition, quantitative surveyors who work for construction companies provide monthly updates to the authorities on the cost incurred. The fee must be paid before the occupancy permit is issued.

Time and cost: 3 days, MWK 234,108

Receive final inspection and obtain occupancy permit

Agency: City Council

Time and cost: 1 day, no charge

Register the property title in the Lands Registry

Agency: Lands Registry

BuildCo must register the property title in the Lands Registry

Time and cost: 7 days, MWK 5,000