13 February 2007
is the word used to describe the systematic control of land use by
government regulation. The
original method of such control generally involved the division of the
land within an area into various designated zones, with each such type
of zone restricted and controlled in the use or uses for which land
within it could be developed. Typically
such zones were designated residential, commercial, industrial, mixed
use and so forth and restricted and controlled accordingly.
The word zoning itself is derived from this generally utilised
method of control.
recent years, the focus for such controls has tended to shift from the
retention and protection of existing amenities and values to such things
as conservation, improved design standards and the provision of public
facilities. This change of
focus, and the desire for flexibility, has caused various other methods
of control to be implemented.
town planners have devised various new methods of control, designed to
achieve various desired ends. Often
they involve menus of distinct features, such as height controls,
setbacks from boundaries and so forth, which features can be
individually selected and incorporated into a development, with a points
scoring system to determine ultimate acceptability.
Such methods can be applied to the point where the concept of
zones is dispensed with altogether, in which case the controls are
perhaps more accurately described as town or urban planning.
Typically, however, greater flexibility brings with it increased
complexity and difficulty of application, so that the earlier method of
basic zoning continues to be widely used
definition, zoning is a government measure.
The power to make vary and enforce such regulations subsists in
or is assumed by local, state and even national governments.
its current widespread application, zoning, at least in the
English-speaking world, is a relatively recent phenomenon. It is largely
a 20C creation.
the USA, the first city to adopt zoning was New York in 1916.
Thereafter the concept spread rapidly.
Today the only major, American city not subject generally to
zoning is Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, which has
rejected its introduction on a number of occasions. As a consequence, Houston is often used as an exemplar for
comparative performance between zoned and non-zoned areas.
the U.K. a Housing & Town Planning Act was passed in 1909.
But it was not until after WW2 that planning controls were fully
introduced into that country.
tended to follow the U.K. lead. In
1920 South Australia passed the Town Planning Development Act, which
first gave government in Australia limited power to control private land
sub-divisions. In 1928, Western Australia passed the first Australian
Town Planning & Development Act, which gave local government control
over private land. Similar
legislation followed slowly in the other states.
Again it was not until after WW2 however that planning controls
were fully introduced in Australia.
alternative to zoning would be unhampered private property ownership
operating within a free market. Ironically
perhaps, proponents of such alternative suggest that the effect of
competition within a free market by private owners would be to create
zones of land use, similar to that envisaged by zoning legislation and
controls, but that such market-created zones would be better and more
effective and would operate more fairly and efficiently.
owners competing with their own money or driven by the desire to
maximise profit tend to locate on land most desirable or best suited for
their own purpose. The
attractiveness or suitability of a particular area is likely to be
enhanced or complemented by the fact that others of like mind or purpose
have already located there. Competition
for ownership then has the effect of driving up the price.
In the case for example of a potential home owner who has paid
significantly for a desirable piece of land, it is unlikely that he will
thereafter construct a hovel upon it. The nature and value of the
development and use tends to be in line with the nature and value of the
effect is similar with respect to other uses; retailers do not tend to
locate in quiet backstreets but to cluster together along busy
thoroughfares or within purpose-built retail centres.
Petrol stations open alongside heavily travelled roads, whilst
manufacturers and industry generally tends to locate on cheap broadacres
with access to highways or rail lines.
Tanneries, rendering plants heavy machinery shops and so forth do
not operate in residential areas because it is uneconomic for them to
pay the price of residential land upon which to locate.
variation on the free market alternative to zoning is the concept of the
restrictive covenant. If a
sub-divider or developer of land considers that it will enhance the
value of his product to confine legally the use that can be made of the
lots he is selling he can impose upon the title of each such lot a
restrictive covenant to such effect.
Thereafter if the owner of such lot attempts or commences to use
it in breach of the terms of such restrictive covenant, such as, for
example constructing a sub-standard building, opening a bar, a church or
a school or operating a home business, any of his neighbours affected by
the breach can take legal proceedings to prevent it
provides a safeguard against inappropriate development detrimentally
affecting the value use or enjoyment of neighbouring properties.
Zoning provides a guarantee against inappropriate use, that the
natural zoning effect of a free market cannot provide.
provides for the creation of a long term environment considered to be
enables development standards and requirements to be set at desirably
high levels in aspects such as design and construction, population
density, provision of amenities, sanitation and public health and
allows for the achieving of desirable social goals such as the provision
of an adequate supply of low cost housing and potential places of
employment and the conservation of areas of natural beauty.
precludes the waste of unplanned development
drives up the cost of property, particularly housing, to the detriment
of the poor.
is inflexible and tends to preclude adaptation or improvement within an
area, without which, in turn, an area declines and dies.
favours the rich and politically powerful, who are more able and likely
to obtain ‘non-conforming use’ exceptions, and it encourages
changes occur in zone rules, as they inevitably must, they create groups
of windfall winners and catastrophic losers.
is used as a method of socio-economic segregation and exclusion whereby
the existing residences of the poor or otherwise undesirable in a zone
are condemned and they are economically precluded from reentry.
premises of zoning are largely wrong and its promises illusionary; it is
simply not possible to create broad-scale, overarching development plans
20 or more years into the future or to guarantee that, what some might
consider inappropriate development, will not occur in a zoned area.
Rather than preclude waste it creates it by mandated plans gone
awry. Providing for places
of employment, for example, or even creating them, does not mean that
there will be employment there.