Development control is the process by which authorities manage the extent and nature of growth in local areas. Landowners or leaseholders wishing to develop are typically required to apply to a local authority (depending on the proposal) for permission prior to commencing any development work. Such development control – regulating and managing what is built where, and when – allows authorities to manage land across a large area. It allows authorities to balance competing needs – such as allocating land for farming, while accommodating the growth of cities and towns – and to protect areas with particular values.

Development is mostly controlled by town planning regulations. There are some requirements of national legislation, but most development control is by locally-based zoning and development provisions, in the form of Town Planning Schemes. Schemes set out development provisions specific to land within a designated area. All surveyed land is classified in a ‘zone’, and the schemes set out what types of development are appropriate in each zone, and the standards and guidelines that apply.

Landowners or leaseholders wishing to develop on their land must apply for Development Permission, and proposals for development must comply with the requirements. When an application is made for Development Permission (to subdivide land or to build), the proposal is assessed by technical experts within the authorities against the provisions of the Scheme. Applications are assessed to manage potential impacts on roads and traffic; public health, safety and amenity; natural environments and systems; and people and lifestyles.

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