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TTPod 2.8: Desire Line on the Horizon

In Conversation with Nicolaas Louw

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Peter Ahmad, Nicolaas Louw

31 July 2022

Peter Ahmad


Peter Ahmad


Talking Transformation Podcast

South Africa, Ireland

I visited Ireland for the first time, earlier this month of July 2022. The countryside was as beautiful as I’d imagined and the cities, towns and hamlets full of history and aesthetic beauty. It really is a magical isle with a rich and troubled history, warm people and the home of U2 – rich talent and treasures abound!

The visit provided a chance to catch up and reflect with one of my closest colleagues and earliest friends in planning – Nicolaas Louw, presently the Senior Executive Planner in Kilkenny County Council, Ireland. He and I worked together in the newly reframed Gauteng Department of Development Planning and Local Government under the maverick leadership of a young MEC, Sicelo Shiceka between 1996 and 2000.

I learned so much from Nicolaas, a young planner himself, still cutting his teeth, but with a couple of years on me in terms of experience. He was undoubtedly one of the biggest influences on my career. At the time it was just an exciting time and pleasure to work with him and others. He took the time to help me with projects and language difficulties and to understand the complexities of a bureaucracy of provincial government. I entered this space as a planner with extremely limited experience and no practical understanding of the challenges I would face. Nicolaas was a big part of helping me grow and adapt in a period of Land Development Objectives (LDOs) – a forerunner to the IDP and SDFs, the Masakhane socio-political campaign that sought to promote civic responsibility and encourage communities to pay for services in the spirit of ubuntu.

This was all against the backdrop of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. For a young and naive planner from the UK it was the opportunity to kick start and define a new life and career here in South Africa. Without the support and encouragement of Nicolaas and others that simply would have not been possible. Nicolaas would leave South African in 2002 and this was the first real opportunity I’ve had to discuss his work and personal transformation in Ireland. His journey is a testimonial to his effort and commitment to the profession and communities he serves. In the podcast he touches on the challenges of balancing common issues such as increasing population growth and responding to COVID, and more delicate and parochial issues of supporting and maintaining mediaeval buildings and heritage sites with the demands for progress and growth. I hope you’ll enjoy Nicolaas' reflections and approaches he describes.

Recorded 14th July 2022.



Website References


Administrative regions

Affordable housing

Building codes

Built environment

City planning

Climate Change/Resilience

Development agencies

Development assistance

Economic growth

Housing needs

Inclusive cities



Public participation


Rural planning

Rural-urban interaction

Small Towns

South Africa

Spatial planning

Urban and Regional Dynamics

Urban regeneration

Urban renewal

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