Town Planning and Zoning Adelaide


Council Town Planning Development Plan zoning provisions can be an extremely powerful device. They can be used negatively, as a denial of permission or more positively as a means of encouraging improvement.

Consider the two most common situations: a suburban residential allotment and a site in the city centre.


The suburban allotment, if it is zoned in a residential area, can in many cases be used for multi unit development. The Development Plan controls (in terms of site area for each dwelling), the number of units permitted in addition to (for example) specifying car parking provision and site coverage. Of course these are a minimum and of course they are inevitably used and frequently not achieved. .

In the case of the city centre the requirements are different in a range of considerations including (for example) setback from site boundaries and car parking provision.

The result of this situation is the fact that in most cases we do not have enough scope for building demonstrating lateral thinking.


This lack of vitality is giving rise to dispiriting buildings such as the two and three storey walk up flats in concrete car park non-gardens and office buildings which crowd pavement frontages.

The energy and initiative of private enterprise is diverted by regulations to building in this way because there is no incentive or no efficient approval process to try anything better.

What of the people who build in these conditions? The architectural profession is trying to accept a leading role in the push for improvement but any architect will explain that a site which must carry so many square metres of space, must comply with frequently limiting building and planning requirements and keep to the inevitable cost structure is a very difficult theme on which to improvise.

It is probably not unfair to say that the majority of investment building is aimed at the maximum quick profit. The merchants of Venice, 600 years ago, were every bit as greedy and grasping as developers are nowadays and yet they created Venice. So there must be a way.

There is a school of thought which is based on the belief that controls should not be all “Thou shalt not ….” thus giving a minimum requirement to which developers will work. Rather, the approach should be to accept the tremendous energy behind the push for development and to cultivate it for the improvement of the whole environment.


A town planning authority could give bonuses in terms of, for example, encouraging amalgamation of small land parcels in order to provide scope for better design options. In the case of the city centre permission could be given for increased height in exchange for open space or a particular type of development at ground level. There are examples of this approach.

The word “plan” means to most people a zoning map with small coloured blobs. In fact town planning is becoming less and less a matter of precise propositions committed to paper and more and more a matter of ideas and policies loosely assembled under constant review within which, every now and then, some project is seen to be as ready for execution as human judgment can pronounce.

Once executed the project is then ‘fed’ into the process as an influence on all future decisions. This is what can be termed “town planning for flexibility”. In this way time is the fourth dimension.

The city planner, like the politician or the producer of consumer goods or any other person responsible for creating a product acceptable to a large number of people, must find out what the community needs. Motivational research aimed at establishing what people will accept could be a positive basis for city planning and hence formulation of guidelines.

We need a town planning climate that efficiently permits, encourages and rewards better ideas in Adelaide.

Peter Hignett – Adelaide Architect and Town Planner.
For further information on Town Planning and Zoning in Adelaide contact Peter Hignett at Planbuild Adelaide