The Importance of GIS in Urban Development Control Plans

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Geographic information systems have become increasingly important in planning since the advent of the computing revolution in the late 20th century. Before GIS, urban planners primarily relied on paper maps to provide information about urban services and design. The increasing complexity of modern urban services -- like utilities and mass transit infrastructure -- often requires planners to work with more geographical information than was used in the past. Both developers, planners and neighbors alike can make better decisions when armed with the basics of GIS technology.

Development Control Plan Basics

  • Development control plans are guidelines used in most parts of Australia to comprehensively determine the rules for new urban development projects. DCPs tend to be applied specifically to a type of development -- such as a multifamily housing development or a retail commercial project -- or a specific project area. They tend to place limits on development designs to accommodate new traffic or preserve neighborhood character. GIS is often used to develop and implement development control plans.

GIS Basics

  • A geographic information system is a type of computer technology that collects and processes information about both natural and man-made geography. Most GIS databases consist of information about geographical features like elevation, rivers and soil types. They also provide information on local services, like the locations of roads, water mains and telecommunications infrastructure. Planners use GIS to do everything from projecting traffic impacts to identifying areas of environmental importance.

Using GIS in Development Control Planning

  • Development control plans are often generated using data from GIS. GIS allows planners to evaluate regional and local needs and set restrictions in the DCP to prevent serious land use impacts. For example, a DCP might identify a protected view corridor or vista and use GIS data about local elevations to determine appropriate building heights. Once these are determined, building heights might be applied in the guidelines of the DCP to a certain planning area where the local community determines views to be important.

Critical Uses of GIS

  • GIS is often also employed in DCPs to prevent life-threatening problems like water shortages or building collapse. GIS provides planners with information about geographical features like environmental contamination, local hydrology and infrastructure needs. This information is then used to develop control plans that prevent or minimize problems like riparian pollution from urban runoff or the inadequate supply of utilities to meet urban needs. GIS can also be used in development control plans to designate soils unable to bear building loads and limit development structures accordingly.

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