Statutory planning

Urban planning is not just concerned with the making of plans but also with the management of development to ensure that it accords with the objectives of the plan and is developed to the benefit of the general public. Statutory planning, or otherwise known as town planning, development control or development management, refers to this part of the planning process that is concerned with the regulation and management of changes to land use and development. Usually, a developer is required to lodge a planning application with the government body, usually a local council, for approval. That application is assessed by the statutory planner to see if it complies with the relevant planning objectives, controls, standards, policies and provisions and decided for approval or rejection.

While most statutory planners are employed by the government to assess proposals, they can also be found in private consultancy providing professional advice to developers on the statutory planning controls and strategic plans available. Therefore they are able to advise on the feasibility of the project to be approved and its capacity to accord with orderly planning principles. Once they have determined that no major non-compliance is observed, the planners are involved with the preparation and lodgement of the planning application with government. Should the application be rejected by Council and taken to an objection court, they may also represent the developers as experts or advocates in the field by giving evidence in a court of law in support/objection to the proposal.

History of statutory planning

In the 18th century, England experienced the first Industrial Revolution which saw the rise of manufacturing as a dominant propellor of economic growth. That phenomenon was accompanied by a burgeoning population increase, a rapid migration of population from the agricultural regions into cities and the development of the industrial city.

There arose then the necessity to house workers within the towns; however, the rapid pace of development and the profit motive of the industrialists ensured that the towns being developed were poorly designed, lack basic amenities and there was a lack of concern of the welfare of the workers. Houses were constructed at high densities in areas which had incompatible land uses, resulting in poor living conditions, the rise of squatter settlements and high motality rates.

It was at that time that some industrialists attempted to use appropriate regulation and control to manage how development occurred. That later led to the introduction of the Town Planning Act 1909, which was the first planning statute to be enacted. Although it was limited in scope, it provided the pathway for the legislational acceptance of the principle of statutory planning, or town planning, to use a British-centric terminology. The Act was to pave the way for the establishment of present-day statutory planning processes across the world.

Rationale behind statutory planning

While the statutory planning systems of different countries differ, the motivation behind the use of government intervention in the use and development of land is generally similar. It can be summed up as a mechanism to guide development to occur in a way that is in the interests of the community as a whole. Therefore, development proposals that do not accord with certain planning controls, objectives or design standards can be refused under law.

There are other rationales that may govern the use of statutory planning in many cities, including:

  • To ensure fairness in physical development
  • To meet the minimum standards of public health
  • To ensure the provision of basic infrastructure and amenities
  • To control and manage externalities and their impacts
  • To provide adequate access to public goods, for instance recreational facilities, schools and libraries
  • To manage the effective functioning of the built environment.

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