Does the land you want to buy have a road access?

A land title. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Some local councils have come up with village maps that clearly show plot numbers coupled with well demarcated roads.

I have a friend whose new-year resolution was to start building a residential house on a plot he bought two years ago somewhere in Wakiso. He swiftly contracted a construction company and instructed them to start delivering building materials necessary for the initial phases. 

They first took bricks to the site. But when they sent another truck to deliver sand, they were shocked to find huge logs in the middle of what was supposed to be the road leading to his plot. 

They tried to remove them only to be swarmed by three angry women who informed them that there was no road. They were trespassing through someone else’s plot. One of the women was the owner.

Shocked, my friend rushed to the site only to find out that he had bought a kibanja/plot without road access. According to the said woman’s sale agreement, the existing road only led to her kibanja/plot, not beyond. 

During the time of the sale, land brokers had convinced this gentleman that the said road served his plot too. It was a lie! 

How did this come about? 

The said land was previously one huge kibanja (untitled land) owned by a mutaka (landlord) in the area. When the owner died, his children subdivided it among themselves. However, they never considered proper planning procedures – each of them was more concerned about a fair share than how to access it! No one was willing to forfeit a few decimals to create access roads. This is very common with unsurveyed/untitled land.

Resultantly, some plots were left without road access, one of which was bought by my friend. To make matters worse, the area chairperson is a land broker by trade (land brokers normally put money before due diligence).  According to my friend, the chairman duly drafted the sale agreement and witnessed it well aware that the plot had no road access, but rather a small footpath leading to it!

While this case stinks of dishonesty, the biggest blame portion goes to my friend. Why did he buy land without conducting the minimum due diligence? Why did he want to start construction without having an approved house plan?

This scenario also reminds me of a photo that went viral on social media sometime last year where someone had built a perimeter wall leading up to another person’s gate. It looked so cruel that there was even no room for a walkway! But it is all about poor planning or lack of it that is eating up a country that was recently wholly declared a planning area!

It is such trends that are creating slums in our neighbourhoods. People are buying and reselling land on the cheap without following proper planning procedures. This has created inaccessible homes, localities where pit- latrines are dug behind a neighbour’s dining room or where waste water channels lead directly into another person’s compound.

It is true that planning is a responsibility of local authorities – right from local councils to the national planning authorities. But this is far from the reality. Bottlenecks such as limited workforce, corruption, inadequate finances and politicking are standing in the way of proper planning. The duty thus falls back to the vigilance of individuals. 

Sadly, most people are reluctant to consult professionals such as surveyors or physical planners for fear of the related expenses. But what is the opportunity cost? Isn’t it safer to pay an extra shilling and get your money’s worth than staying rigid only to buy land that you can’t access?

Had my friend asked a physical planner or land surveyor to check the area plan, he would have discovered this anomaly beforehand. Instead, he relied on land brokers who were in cahoots with the area chairman. Corruption! Dishonesty!

Dear reader, always ensure that the land you are buying has access to the necessary social services such as roads, water and electricity lines. Although some people believe that road access is a given, many properties do not have access roads and they are technically classified as landlocked. (A landlocked property is one where you have to first cross through someone else’s property to gain access to your land). 

Organisations such as Buganda Land Board can be very helpful in such instances because they have expertise to offer physical planning services for people on both Kabaka’s land and other tenure.

On the part of local leaders and landlords, it is more important to always prioritise the greater good than seeking personal interests. Roads, electricity and water lines should be well marked and reserved before land is subdivided – either through a survey or ordinary village divisions by local council chairpersons.

Some local councils have come up with village maps that clearly show plot numbers coupled with well demarcated roads. This is a welcome idea that can only be improved with the involvement of physical planning professionals. This will create clarity and harmony, especially in instances where broken families are sharing spoils of their hardworking forefathers.

Joseph Kimbowa,  Team leader, communications Buganda Land Board