Cape Town Time:


Meet Pete, the City of Cape Town’s Planning Podcast Pro

25 May 2021

Seasoned town planner Pete Ahmad has turned his passion for his professional discipline into a successful podcast series, which has already reached thousands of listeners across the globe.  The Talking Transformation Podcast (TTPod) has brought conversations, perspectives and exploration of some highly topical issues to the airwaves.

If you spend time reading up about Pete Ahmad’s career in town planning, expect to disappear down a rabbit hole of fascinating stories.

While he is quick to acknowledge the efforts of the ten member team he manages at the City of Cape Town’s Urban Planning and Design Department, Pete’s commitment to the sector goes way beyond office hours.

Pete, who joined the City of Cape Town in 2014, manages the City Growth Management Unit, which tackles metropolitan planning issues.

His team is responsible for compiling key planning policies and strategies, including the Cape Town’s Municipal Spatial Development Framework and, until recently, the Built Environment Performance Plan. They have also been responsible for a number of pioneering initiatives in the planning field relating to land use modelling, and monitoring the performance and potential  of the City’s economic nodes.

Taking to the airwaves

Pete has 25 years’ experience in his field. He holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Town and Country Planning from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom; he has published planning papers internationally, and contributed to locally published books.

He also serves on the  City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal and is  an active planning advocate, leader, mentor and educator. And since July 2019, this passionate planner has been advancing transformational town planning on another platform as well.

As the founder and host of the Talking Transformation Podcast (TTPod), he has been recording and broadcasting episodes about spatial transformation and city building.

More than 50 podcasts and 11 600 listeners later, he has a growing audience both in South Africa and further afield.

“We’re operating in an increasingly difficult global and national environment. Complex issues of housing, sanitation and land tenure remain perennial challenges to households, communities and institutions alike. The TTPod reflects on and celebrates achievements and milestones – the success stories and opportunities that are out there for us all to learn from,” says Pete.

After almost 22 months on the air and over 80 guests interviewed, the TTPod has built up an impressive archive of material and perspectives to help planners and others reflect on contemporary planning issues. It serves as a voice for built environment professionals and interest groups who are working towards transforming South Africa, driving both formal and informal processes to shape the country’s cities and spaces.

Deep dive into topical issues

The podcast has already covered topics such as informal settlements upgrades, the rise of informal rental in townships, land and tenure reform, the National Development Plan, and trauma and violence in communities.

After an in-depth series on South Africa’s housing in 2020, Pete has this year embarked on a series on green building and the built environment’s contribution to realising net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Skills development and the relevance and challenges of our traditional planning skills set have also been explored.

“In the era of Covid-19, the conversation has shifted from our predominantly South African focus to a broader, global perspective, checking in with colleagues around the world. We look at how they have experienced the challenges of different lockdown approaches, the effectiveness of governments in addressing the challenges, what lessons can be or have been learnt, and what the future holds for our cities postCovid-19,” says Pete.

We are deliberately trying to balance the views of the private sector, academia and advocacy groups. Our aim is not to provide definitive answers, but to offer a series of perspectives and reflections, allowing the listener to decide if it makes sense or not.

Those involved in the TTPod do so in a voluntary and personal capacity. No funds are generated, and time and recording infrastructure are from the team’s own resources. The podcasts are free to download.

“We record and prepare the episodes in our spare time to help our listeners and ourselves come to terms with the challenges at hand,” says Pete. And their work is held in high regard. So high, in fact, that the South African Council of Planners (SACPLAN) has certified the TTPod episodes.

An online review of any episode earns members three continuous personal development (CPD) points, helping them meet their annual CPD obligations without financial burden.

Follow the TTPod episodes on any of the podcast platforms (Anchor, Apple and Spotify are the most popular) here.