Why land use controls are necessary


Information in this topic is worded in a general way to suit the circumstances in all Australian states and territories.

You will find an explanation of words in italics in 1.2 Planning language.


A community is made up of individuals with different needs, interests and lifestyles. Some needs, however, are common to us all, such as sanitation, fresh air, clean water, and open space for recreation. The way a city or town develops can have a direct impact on these needs and therefore the quality of life of its citizens.

Town planning, and specifically control of land use, is one tool for ensuring these common needs are met and for achieving sustainable cities and towns by controlling development so that:
  • important natural resources are preserved;
  • urban settlement is contained to ensure that roads and other infrastructure such as water, sewerage, power, and telecommunications are provided efficiently;
  • the economy is supported by maintaining a hierarchy of business centres;
  • community services, facilities and open space are fairly distributed; and
  • incompatible land uses are separated.

Control of land use through town planning is necessary because the way individual land owners wish to develop and make use of their land may not match the needs or aspirations of the broader community. The planning system in each state and territory manages the use and development of land in the public interest by ensuring that most development needs development approval before it can proceed.

If land use were not controlled, we would almost certainly see even more extensive urbanisation of the rural/urban edge of cities and lack of community infrastructure such as open space.

The main way of controlling land use in Australia is through planning schemes that are prepared and implemented by local councils under state or territory government laws (the ACT combines both state and local government functions).
The use of regulation to control land use promotes compliance and certainty that would not exist if there were no statutory basis for these controls.
There is an underlying tension for governments between easing the regulatory path for business to undertake development and ensuring an open and transparent opportunity for the community to have its say on these developments.

How land use controls achieve ecological sustainability
Land use controls achieve ecological sustainability by identifying the level of development that can be sustained without critical environmental damage, while meeting economic and social needs of present and future generations. This linking of environmental, economic and social values is known as the “triple bottom line”.

Land use controls aim to protect environmental values through:
  • controls that restrict development to protect important areas of biodiversity;
  • controls on vegetation removal such as bushland and habitats for native wildlife;
  • controls on how waste and effluent are dealt with or removed so that water catchments are not polluted; and
  • controls that allow increased residential densities near public transport nodes such as railway stations to encourage use of public transport and reduce private vehicle use.

Land use controls aim to increase economic values through:
  • allocation of sufficient land for business and industry in urban areas. This helps provide economic growth, as well as services and jobs for local residents;
  • controls that protect scarce natural resources such as good quality agricultural land and extractive materials from encroaching development;
  • controls on location of new residential development to particular areas to give the most efficient return on public funds used for construction of new infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, gas, water and sewerage, and communications networks; and
  • controls that restrict new commercial activities to identified business centres in locations with good access by both private and public transport to reduce travel costs and enhance economic viability of businesses.

Land use controls aim to enhance social values through:
  • controls that protect health and safety of residents by restricting development in areas subject to flooding, erosion or other natural disasters such as bushfires;
  • controls that protect the character of an existing area such as restrictions related to removal or alteration of heritage buildings;
  • conditions on new development to enhance community facilities such as meeting places, local parks and recreation space; and
  • controls that require a proportion of the development to provide affordable housing for disadvantaged people.

Related topics:
More on-line resources:

General town planning information:

Planning legislation, planning process, and planning instruments in each state or territory:
Ecological sustainability:
We will build this list over time and invite you to contact us with suggested links you are aware of that can be added to this page.

Want to know more?
Is there something more you want to know about this topic? Contact us with your ideas for future inclusion in TOWN PLANNING FOR EVERYONE resources.

© The Planning Academy 2011
Last updated: 9 Dec 2013

Stay in touch with us

Subscribe to our mailing list.

* indicates required

Contact us

Phone: 1300 88 4940

Street address:
356 St Pauls Terrace
Fortitude Valley Q 4006

Postal address:
PO Box 205
Fortitude Valley Q 4006


Latest news

2012 National Award for Planning Excellence

The Planning Academy has won the PIA National Planning Excellence Award (Promotion of Planning) presented this week in Adelaide for our free community..

Featured article on TPA in The Planning Boardroom newsletter

"Innovative videos educate on statutory planning" - The Planning Academy products are the subject of this feature article (http://www.theplanningboard..

More news...

TPA and Ethos Urban

The Planning Academy is a business area of Ethos Urban. More about Ethos Urban...