What is Land Use Planning?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Land use planning is the term given to public policy that directs how the land in a community is used. The goal is to balance the needs of the people who live in the area with the needs of the environment. This term is often used interchangeably with urban planning.

At its most basic, land use planning determines which parts of a community will be used for residential areas and which will be used as commercial areas. This is called zoning. It also places a great deal of emphasis on transportation planning.

Transportation planning includes several components. Public transportation is important in areas that have a dense population since, without effective public transportation, automobile congestion would be so heavy that it would affect the quality of life of the people in the area. Transportation planning also includes designing roadways in the community, since properly designed roads can relieve congestion and stress associated with commuting.

Once the basic zoning and transportation issues are resolved, land use planning can expand in a variety of ways. The planner may design the physical layout of the community, and determine the scale of development permitted in various areas. Planning can also include the aesthetics of the community, and involves such issues as the type of building materials that are used, and the style of landscaping that is installed.


The environmental aspect of land use planning can include a variety of components as well, depending on the area. It may include where to best locate roads, determining ways to reduce pollution and surface runoff, and studies to determine the potential for flooding. Environmental planning is a highly specialized field, and environmental planners often work in conjunction with land use planners to design communities.

Land use planners come from a variety of backgrounds. Experience in surveying, engineering, or architecture are all excellent areas to start. The growing concern about people’s impact on the environment has lead to an increase in interest for sustainable developments, which attempt to concentrate population in smaller areas to reduce transportation needs as well as the use of natural resources.

An increased interest in regional, or metro, government has lead to regional planning. In regional planning, planners work to tie together communities through public transportation and shared facilities. This reduces the need for duplicate service, allowing each community to save money.


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Post 4

This might seem like a bit of a banal question, but could land planning be compared to the game Sim City? Before you laugh, it is quite a sophisticated game that basses the success of the areas of your cities on what is around it, i.e. transport, water, highways etc. If a land planner has that broad of an influence, it would be really fun to do that job, but I bet they work on more local areas.

Post 2

@ Submariner- Probably the best example of sustainable land use planning is the city of Curitiba in Brazil. Curitiba is the greenest city in the world, and is a model for sustainable planning. Over 60% of all waste is recycled, about 70% of the residents use public transportation, there is 25% less traffic congestion than a comparable city, and natural spaces are interspersed throughout.

The urban design of Curitiba is dense, but the incorporation of natural spaces makes the city seem much larger than it is. The city planners also incorporated social justice into the design of the city. The city uses incentive programs that focus on social equality and job creation while still having the co-benefit of being ecologically friendly.

Post 1

The importance of urban form and its relationship to environmental impact is a very important factor in creating resilient cities.

Urban land use planning can have a large impact on emissions of a city. The way that a city incorporates transportation framework into urban planning has a direct impact on the emissions of a city. The emissions produced within a city is a key factor in the air quality of city, the health of its residents, and the urban heat island effect. The destination accessibility and distance to transit are very important in planning a sustainable city.

A good example of how this works is a comparison between the Urban Form f a megacity like Tokyo and a megacity like

Los Angeles. Because of the density, access to public transit, and destination accessibility of the city, 88% of all movement within the city of Tokyo is done on foot. On the other end of the spectrum, the sprawl of Los Angeles equates to only 3% of all movement done within the city being due to walking. Los Angeles has battled with pollution in the past, and to make the city livable, the state has enacted some of the toughest emissions standards in the country.

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