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Planning instruments

Read more on legal requirements that must be observed regarding land use and development.
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© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility

There are legal requirements that must be observed regarding land use and development that are mandated in planning law. Once permission for development has been granted, or even as a part of that undertaking, different types of planning instruments can be used to facilitate the process.

Zoning regulations

Zoning regulations are the rules and guidelines that govern land use and development within a specific jurisdiction. These regulations divide the area into different zones, each with its own set of permitted land uses, development standards, and regulations. Zoning regulations typically address aspects such as:

  • permitted land uses: residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, or mixed-use
  • development standards: requirements regarding the physical characteristics of development within each zoning district
  • use restrictions: restrictions on certain types of land uses, such as prohibiting industrial uses in residential areas
  • parking and landscaping requirements: the standards for off-street parking, landscaping, and buffering.

These regulations are typically established through comprehensive planning processes and are enforced by local planning departments.


Image by svitlanaozirna via Envato Elements.

Overlays are additional planning regulations applied to specific areas or properties in addition to the zoning regulations. They are used to address specific issues or characteristics of a particular area, such as:

  • heritage preservation
  • environmental protection
  • flood risk management
  • urban design guidelines

Overlays can vary significantly depending on local planning priorities, objectives, and regulatory frameworks.

Land value capture (LVC)

Land value capture (LVC) refers to the process of recovering a portion of the increase in land value that occurs due to:

  • public investments
  • infrastructure improvements
  • changes in zoning regulations.

It involves mechanisms through which governments or public authorities can capture a share of the land value to fund the costs of infrastructure, public services, or urban development projects.

Many global cities rely on land value capture to help finance large infrastructure projects, and this, together with property taxes, can add an extra burden on developers and owners which can impact the decision to proceed with land use and development. In this respect, urban economics plays a significant role in land use planning and development and the broader redevelopment of city precincts.

On the next step, we’ll examine this process and the role land value capture plays in urban planning and development in more detail.

Further resources

If you would like to explore some of the concepts we have covered in more detail, the following resources are optional.

Assessing economic instruments to steer urban residential sprawl, using a hedonic pricing simulation modelling approach

Planning Instruments and Urban Development Management Tools for Smart Cities. Case Study: Ludwigsburg, Germany

© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility
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