What Exactly Is Land Use Planning? Part 1 of 3

The Future 'Derwentthorpe' Site. A field off t...

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Itbs funny: in 1961 John Ormsbee Simonds wrote a book titled Landscape Architecture with the self-described intention of discussing an ecological approach to environmental design. Simonds, considered a pre-eminent authority on environmental planning and one of the founders of professional landscape architecture in America, used the terms plan, planning, and planner in reference to the planning of manbs physical environment b by architect, landscape architect, engineer, and urban or regional planner, working separately, or more ideally, in close collaboration. [1]

Wikipedia currently offers the following definition of land use planning: bb& the term used for a branch of public policy which encompasses various disciplines which seek to order and regulate the use of land in an efficient and ethical way, thus preventing land use conflicts.b

Wow. B We have gone from a collaborative planning of manbs physical environment to a bbranch of public policyb described by words such as discipline, regulate, and prevent.

Ibm not going to give a commentary on the current state of land use planning in specific communities at this time, but I do want to offer some insight into what I think land use planning was and should be intended to do.

In 1993, about 30 years after Simonds wrote his book and 17 years before Wikipediabs current posted definition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations wrote this statement:

Land-use planning is sometimes misunderstood as being a process where planners tell people what to do. In this publication, land-use planning means the systematic assessment of physical, social and economic factors in such a way as to encourage and assist land users in selecting options that increase their productivity, are sustainable and meet the needs of society. [2]

I like that: words like bencourage, assist, options, meet the needsb fit my perceptions of what communities want.

Of course conflicts are inevitable; I am certainly not pretending that using positive words will ensure that Naturebs needs and Manbs needs are always in harmony, but understanding that sound planning can only occur when participants consider not only the short term problems but also the long term solutions.

Land use planning should consider the desired and necessary uses of man in relation to both the obvious and obscure environmental, economic, and cultural processes going on at larger and smaller scales.

Land use planning should involve elected officials, professionals in both public and private sectors (including, yes, developers), citizens, and interested parties in the interpretation of situations, proposals for solutions, analysis of current and future impacts of proposed solutions, and communication of these ideas. This collaboration is the only hope of determining and achieving the most appropriate course action in any situation and of getting beyond acting just problem by problem or site by site.


[1] John Ormsbee Simonds, Landscape Architecture (McGraw-Hill 1961)

[2] FAO, Rome (Italy) Guidelines for Land-use planning (FAO Development Series No. 1) ISBN 92-5-103282-3 (1993)

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One response to “What Exactly Is Land Use Planning? Part 1 of 3

  1. Pingback: Zoning: Land Use Part 2 of 3 | Alpine Design and Planning·

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