Land use planning
Policy objectives, regulatory controls

Land use planning is an issue of public policy, and the application of that policy to land generally – including privately owned or occupied land.  The policy may be to allow, and even to encourage land to be used or developed in a particular way.  It may be to restrict uses or developments, or even prohibit some uses or developments.

Government has available to it several regulatory tools to help it to implement its policy.  These include economic incentives (such as provision of infrastructure and even financial support) and economic disincentives (such as taxation).  Government might take action to sweep away barriers to appropriate land use or development, for example by consolidating land titles and removing unwanted private planning controls such as restrictive covenants.

Land use planning laws are, accordingly, not the only regulatory tools available to government: but they are important.

Avoiding over-regulation

Many controls apply, or might be made to apply, to the use and development of land.  It is an area which can easily become a regulatory mess. Potential regulatory hazards are:

  • building controls – if a building is to be constructed technical approval should be required, to ensure that the building complies with construction requirements. However, building controls drift into land use planning regulation if they extend to requiring that a building in a particular location be of a particular type, for example, residential or commercial;
  • private planning – land owners often seek to control the use to be made of land by occupiers or subsequent owners. A technique which is available in some jurisdictions is creation of a covenant – an agreement which restricts use and development of land by the parties to the agreement and subsequent owners and occupiers. The regulatory force given to agreements, by courts or legislation, operates as another form of land use planning.