Zoning in Town Planning

Zoning Town Planning

Throughout the world, government officials, town planning consultants, business owners, investors and residents all have a motivated interest in ensuring a city or community remains a place where people want to live, work, visit and spend money. Zoning regulations, restrictions, and laws play a major role in helping to ensure the development within cities and communities adhere to town planning guidelines and therefore follow the proper approval channels prior to any development.

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Zoning is a way of regulating land use whereby governments divide land into zones and set rules on how that land may be used. For example, a block of land may be zoned for commercial use, allowing supermarkets and retailers to set up there but prohibiting factories. Governments also use ‘built form’ regulation (that is, rules governing matters such as the construction, height, shape and location of buildings) to shape cities. This is conceptually distinct from land-use zoning but, in practice, often forms part of the same set of regulations. In most Australian jurisdictions, local governments are responsible for applying zones to land (subject to ministerial approval), but they operate in accordance with the legislative frameworks and land use plans established by State and Territory governments.


The purpose of zoning is to allow local and national authorities to regulate and control land and property markets to ensure complementary uses. Zoning can also provide the opportunity to stimulate or slow down development in specific areas.

Under zoning regulations, specific areas or zones within a city or community are designated for specific use. The thoughtful planning related to zoning regulations is critical to ensuring for the health and safety of residents as well as the development of necessary and sufficient infrastructure to support residents, businesses and industrial facilities.

Reasons for zoning

Originally, the main motivation for zoning was to separate incompatible uses such as allowing local governments to exclude commercial and industrial activities from residential areas. Over time, additional motivations for zoning have emerged. These include:

  • limiting urban sprawl
  • controlling the density of urban development
  • channelling commercial activity into identified activity centres
  • reserving land for open or green space
  • reserving land for industrial activity
  • protecting the interests of local businesses and residents

The way an area develops and grows is dependent on the government zoning regulations. The zoning determines what is legally allowed and not allowed concerning the land. Zoning laws aim to ensure that a lot or a new building is in coherence with the area where it is to be developed, therefore zoning helps to protect the public interest of the existing neighbourhood.

The Role and Benefits of Zoning include:

  • Enforces restrictions like height limitations, space requirement, building size, and other development standards. These restrictions and standards help prevent overcrowding in the specified area by limiting the amount and sizes of structures and parcels.

  • Protects existing property values by preventing incompatible uses of a property. For example, a dance club would not be allowed near an elementary school.

  • Keeps buildings from being built too close to each other.

  • Provides systematic lot arrangement.

  • Protects recreational areas and allows for more open spaces in the neighbourhood.

  • Has aesthetic values in its aim to enhance the beauty of a community by requiring landscaping, buffers, and parking lot improvements.

  • Protects residential properties from commercial development.

  • Helps to attract developers and builders who prefer to locate their new projects in areas where the project is compatible with the surroundings and accepted by the community.

Zoning is not just important to the large property developers, but is also highly important to the individual investors. The zoning of a neighbourhood can have a major effect on the price of your property and the community where you live.


The zoning in each Australian state may differ and each area may be further subdivided as council zoning officers deem appropriate.  Each zoning category will come with its own regulations that must be understood and followed in order to avoid fines and other financial repercussions. Most zones can be broadly categorised under these four areas:

  • Residential
  • Agricultural
  • Commercial
  • Industrial

Brisbane City Council Zoning

Brisbane City Council developed the Brisbane City Plan 2014 (City Plan) in consultation with the community. The plan supports a simple, fast and clear development assessment process. It guides how land can be used and developed in Brisbane to support population growth, while protecting our way of life.

Brisbane Zones – Land in Brisbane is divided into zones. These zones guide the land use or type of development that may occur on a site. City Plan further divides some zones into numbered zone precincts. These precincts provide more specific information about the types of development intended for particular locations.

Residential Zones – Residential zoning provides for a variety of housing choices to meet community needs now and in the future. Brisbane City Plan divides residential land into zones. These zones identify where different types of housing can occur. Council’s residential zones include:

  • character residential
  • low density residential
  • low-medium density residential
  • medium density residential
  • high density residential
  • tourist accommodation
  • emerging community
  • rural
  • rural residential
  • township
  • environmental management.

Additional Things To Consider in Zoning

Overlays – Overlay maps include different features you must consider when developing land in Brisbane. For example, flooding, heritage and character. Overlay maps are available in Brisbane City Council’s City Plan online mapping tool. They help identify if your property:

  • is in an overlay, or
  • has particular characteristics to consider when preparing your development application.

An overlay may apply to all, or part, of a property. More than one overlay may affect a property. Overlays may affect the type and level of development assessment required, as well as design requirements such as building height, landscaping or vehicle access. Some overlays are for information purposes only.

Traditional building character overlay map – The traditional building character overlay map was called a ‘demolition control precinct’ under Brisbane City Plan 2000. It identifies land where existing character houses must be protected. Any renovations or new development must reflect the neighbourhood’s traditional building character.

Find out how these apply to your property

The City Plan online mapping tool  developed by Brisbane City Council allows you to view your property on a map. From the map you can see the zones, precincts, overlays and neighbourhood plans that apply to your site.

It is important to check your property? Yes, it is important to check your property on the interactive map and it may even be necessary to seek help from a professional Town Planning Consultant who can provide you with professional advice about your property.  This is because you must include all the relevant information in your development application before submitting it to Council.  A Town Planning Consultant will be able to offer you expert advice and planning services which include:

  • Pre-purchase advice
  • Due diligence
  • Highest and best use analysis
  • Response to show cause / enforcement
  • Town planning advice
  • Pre Lodgement meetings

Disclaimer:  Information extracted from Brisbane City Council Planning and Building website. The content on this page is a summary and has been prepared to assist the reader to understand the City Plan. Please refer to the full City Plan document.

OLEARIA TOWN PLANNING provides the Brisbane community with modern thinkers and trusted advisors who aim to provide each of their clients with a tailored approach to achieve their development objectives.

We specialise in preparing, lodging and managing development applications around Brisbane and throughout the whole of Queensland. Our aim is to deliver highly innovative, cost-effective solutions across a wide spectrum of services including:

  • Industry Town Planning
  • Commercial Town Planning
  • Operational Work
  • Subdivision
  • Residential Services
  • Advice Services

If you would like more information or would like to request a quote for our town planning services contact us at Olearia Town Planning.

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