REALWorld Law

Planning / zoning

Designated use

Are there any legal restrictions on the designated use to which any new building may be put or on any change in the designated use of an existing building?

Angola

Angola

Yes, the municipal plans must define the permitted use for the land or building and the permitted use changes.

Australia

Australia

Zoning controls impose legal restrictions on the use to which a building may be put and any change in the use of a building. In most cases a change in use will require a permit, approval or consent. In determining whether consent will be granted to the use change, matters such as intensification of the use, car-parking and the impact on amenity of the proposed new use will be considered. In some cases there may be no control over the change of use, for example between shops of different kinds. If a use is prohibited by the current zoning, a change of use may be permitted by rezoning the land through an amendment of the relevant planning instrument. This will usually involve a public participation process and hearing. Use of a particular building will also be determined by the building classification system that is dependent on the purpose for which the building is designed, constructed or adapted to be used.

Belgium

Belgium

Public law governs the use or function of new buildings as well as existing buildings. Zoning plans determine which functions are possible on a certain piece of land.

In the Flemish Region, the Flemish Public Planning Code provides that ‘executive zoning plans’ regulate the ‘destination’ or ‘function’ of certain areas of land, eg agriculture, habitation, industrial, recreation or nature protection. These destinations or functions – governed by executive zoning plans at regional, provincial or municipal level – limit the possible functions of new and existing buildings. The hierarchy relating to region, province and municipality applies here as well: ‘regional executive spatial plans’ take preference over ‘provincial or municipal executive spatial plans’.

In principle, where a building’s function is incompatible with a designation defined in a spatial executive plan, no permit will be granted, unless an exception regime applies. In fact, there is no general possibility, even after a public consultation, of granting a permit that is incompatible with the applicable designation policies. The exceptions are precisely defined and set exact limits. The function of existing buildings cannot be changed at will. For some changes of function, the Flemish government has implemented a mandatory single environmental permit for building, governed by an Executive Decree of 14 April 2000, that has been modified several times.

In the Brussels Capital Region, the Brussels Code regarding public planning of 9 April 2004, states that ‘destination plans’ can be made at regional and municipal level. There are therefore no ‘provincial destination plans’ in the Brussels Capital Region. These destination plans limit the functions in certain areas (eg agriculture, habitation, industry, recreation, commerce or nature protection). A building permit will not generally be granted when the future function of the building is incompatible with the destination of the ground in the applicable spatial plan, unless exception regimes apply. The regional destination plans have preference over the destination plans of the municipality. Also for existing buildings, the function cannot be amended freely. The Brussels Government has created the requirement for a mandatory building permit, for certain changes of function of existing buildings.

In the Walloon Region, the Code for Territorial Development contains similar provisions. Regional and municipal ‘zoning plans’ limit the designation and use of areas of land (eg agriculture, habitation, industry, commerce or nature protection). A building permit will not be granted in principle when the future function of the building is incompatible with the destination of the ground in the applicable spatial plan, unless exception regimes apply. The regional spatial plans have a compulsory nature whereas the communal spatial plans have only an indicative nature. The function of existing buildings cannot be changed freely under the provisions applicable in the Walloon Region.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The use of any new or existing building is regulated by the spatial and urban planning regulations of the relevant municipality. The types of use that can be designated include residential purposes, commercial purposes, industrial purposes, etc. Changes to the designated use of a building must be approved by the relevant administrative bodies. However, such changes are rarely approved since the use of any particular building or land is governed by the relevant spatial plans of the municipality.

Canada

Canada

Zoning controls impose legal restrictions on the use to which land may be put and any change in the use of a building. In most cases, a change in use will require a permit, approval or consent from the applicable local authority.

If the landowner’s desired use is prohibited by the current zoning, the landowner may apply for a variance of the applicable provision in the local zoning control or a change of use may be permitted by rezoning the land through an amendment of the relevant planning instrument. This will usually involve a public participation process and hearing.

Even in the case of a 'permitted' use, some local authorities will require the issuance of an approval to authorize and document a change of designated use.

China

China

The use of a building must be in accordance with the Land Use Right granted in respect of the land upon which the building is built. An application must be filed with the Land Administration Bureau and the Real Estate Administration Bureau if a change of use is proposed. There are no regulations governing the conditions in which such an application will be approved and permission is therefore entirely discretionary.

Croatia

Croatia

Before beginning the use of a new building, the investor has to obtain a usage permit. For the use of a building for business purposes, upon obtaining the usage permit, the investor has also to obtain a decision on the minimal technical conditions. In the case of a change in the designated use of an existing building, provided no construction alterations are made, ie where no amendment of the building permit is required, the owner must separately obtain a decision on the change of designation.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic

In general, a building can be used only for the purpose specified in the use permit or consent, the notification of the use of the building, or the relevant building permission. 

Any change in the use of a building, in its operational facilities (the equipment in a building necessary for its operation), in its method of construction or any substantial extension of or change in the activity carried on there, the effects of which could endanger life or public health, the life or health of animals, safety or the environment, is permitted only on the basis of an approval or a permit issued by the responsible planning authority.

Moreover, such change in use must be in accordance with the planning documentation, the aims and tasks of town and country planning, general requirements on construction, protected public priorities and special regulations.

Denmark

Denmark

Local plans can include regulation regarding the specific use of the land or specify that certain uses of the land require permission. Local plans can include restrictions for a change in the designated use of an existing building.

In a rural area (an area which is not classified as an urban zone or a zone where most of the houses are holiday homes) it is a general rule that any new construction or change in the designated use of an existing building or construction requires a planning permission. There are some exemptions from this general rule regarding agricultural estates, forest properties and fishery and residential buildings not exceeding 500 square metres.

France

France

Legal restrictions concerning the use of the land are contained in the local development plans. A planning permission is required before the use of an existing building can be changed. Changing the designated use of a building is more difficult if said building is originally used for dwelling purposes.

Germany

Germany

Yes, building permissions are required before land can be put to new use. Certain limited changes of use may be automatically authorised in certain cases. Where a development plan is in place, land can only be used in accordance with that plan.

Hong Kong, SAR

Hong Kong, SAR

Yes. The land use zoning of a site or premises is usually set out in the relevant Outline Zoning Plans and categorized as:

  • Permitted uses. and
  • Uses which require permission from the Town Planning Board

The establishment of or change to an existing use must be in accordance with the permitted land use of the zone or permission is otherwise needed. If the proposed use is not mentioned in the plans, the developer can apply for amendment of plan to the Town Planning Board for consideration.

There are also Development Permission Areas Plans which serve as interim plans and are not as detailed as Outline Zoning Plans. If land is within a DPA, no person may continue development unless it is:

  • An existing use
  • Development is permitted in the plan, or
  • With permission of Director of Planning
Hungary

Hungary

The structural plans, zoning maps and local building codes may specify the different designated functions for which a new building may be built in a given zoning block.

Generally, the change in the designated use of an existing building requires the submission of a prior notification to the competent body of the local municipality that will decide on acknowledging or rejecting the proposed change in the designated use. Nevertheless, if such change involves works subject to building permitting procedure, then the aforementioned notification of the local municipality’s competent body is not required.

If a building permit is required the building authority will decline to issue a building permit in case the intended new use is not allowed for in the local structural plan, zoning map and local building code applicable to the given zoning block.

A special permit is required for the change in the designated use in case of certain retail buildings and units with a gross floor area of over 400 square meters.

Ireland

Ireland

Yes, planning permission is required for the construction of a new building and the planning permission may contain restrictions on the designated use. An example of such a restriction might be use as office or retail premises.

The Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2018 broadened the definition of exempted development, such as to include development in the form of a change of use and related works relating to the conversion of vacant commercial premises for residential purposes.

As planning permission is required for change of use, such a planning permission may contain restrictions on the designated use.

Italy

Italy

Permission is not required where the works or change of use are already authorised as 'permitted development' under the applicable zoning plan. If this is not the case, permission is required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur.

Japan

Japan

Yes. The CPA governs the use purposes of new buildings as well as existing buildings and permitted use purposes of a building depends on the district where the building is built or located.

As mentioned above, there are largely three types of districts: residential districts, commercial districts and industrial districts. For example, hospitals, schools and nursery homes are prohibited in some industrial districts and large-scale supermarkets can only be built in certain commercial districts.

Netherlands

Netherlands

Permission is not required where the works or change of use are already authorized as ‘permitted development’ under the applicable (municipal) zoning plan and, if applicable, other zoning rules and regulations. If this is not the case, a permission (specifically, an environmental permit for non-zoning plan compliant use) is required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur.

Nigeria

Nigeria

Yes, there are restrictions on the use to which a new building may be put and particularly, the change in use of an existing building is prohibited except approval for the change in use is obtained.

Every building development and use thereof, must comply with the permissible use in accordance with development plan in force and other regulations made pursuant to the applicable laws. Section 28 (2) of the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development (Amendment) Law 2019 mandates that all applications for building permit shall comply with all requirements and standards of an operative development plan (master/local plan).

State grant of rights of occupancy prescribes the purpose of use which are usually for residential, commercial, recreational, tourism, industrial or mixed use (residential and commercial) purposes.

In this regard, the conditions attached to the grant of a development permit should not conflict with the conditions of the grant of the right of occupancy.

Norway

Norway

Yes. The establishment of, or change to, an existing use must be in accordance with the permitted usage set out in the plans for land use. For example, the erection of business premises cannot be carried out in an area which is designated for housing. However, the planning and building authorities may grant a dispensation and allow a building to be erected which is not in accordance with the relevant plan for land use.

A dispensation may not be granted if the considerations behind the provision from which the dispensation is granted or the considerations of the Act’s object clause, are significantly disregarded. In addition, the advantages of granting a dispensation must clearly outweigh the disadvantages based on an overall assessment.

Provided the use of a building has been approved, the owner or user of an existing building is not automatically required to change the use of the building if a new zoning plan changes the land use.  New additions or other new works on the building will have to adhere to the new zoning plan.

Poland

Poland

Changes to the designated use of any building require permission from the public authorities only if fire-fighting, flood, occupational health and safety or similar issues are affected. Otherwise, a change in the designated use may be made without any permission.

Notification to the competent authority is required.

Portugal

Portugal

Yes.

The municipal plans for land planning define the permitted use according to the area of activity (housing, commerce and services, industry, agriculture, etc) and sometimes the permitted changes in use.

Special plans (referring to protected areas, coastline, public water dams, estuaries and archaeological parks) define unauthorized, conditioned and preferential uses.

Romania

Romania

According to the Procedural Norms associated to Law 50/1991 regarding construction works, approvals authenticated by a notary public are required from the neighbours for construction works necessary for the purpose of changing the designated use of existing buildings, or for the development of buildings with a different use to that of the neighbouring buildings. Any unjustified refusal of the neighbours can be assessed as such by a competent court and a court decision in that regard is a substitute for the neighbours' approval.

Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic

In general, a building can be used only for the purpose specified in the:

  • Occupancy permit
  • Relevant building permit

A building which has been changed can be used only after a new occupancy certificate has been granted. Also, changes in the designated use must be in accordance with the aims of relevant planning and zoning documentation.

Spain

Spain

Yes, the urban planning regulations establish the different designated uses allowed for a relevant plot or building. The change of the use of a building (within the allowed uses established by the applicable urban planning parameters) requires a prior permit or even the amendment of the applicable planning regulations.

Sweden

Sweden

Yes, planning legislation sets out the designated use for certain areas. Also, a change in designated use generally requires a planning permission from the municipality.

Thailand

Thailand

Yes, the Building Control Act B.E. 2522 and City Planning Act B.E. 2518 and its notifications are applicable. The Building Control Act B.E. 2522 controls the setback requirements of the building, and the City Planning Act B.E. 2518 controls the floor area ratio (FAR) (the ratio of a building's total floor area to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built) and the open-space ratio (OSR)(the proportion of a development required to be left as open space) and the designated use of the land.

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

This is controlled by the issue of permits which are required for new buildings, significant alterations or a change of use (see Controls on detailed design).

UAE Nationals are entitled to buy and sell land allocated to them provided the purpose of the allocation is not changed.

To ensure the delivery of affordable housing to middle income earners, the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities (DUPM) is implementing a policy to secure a supply of middle income rental housing. The policy requires 20% of the residential gross floor area (GFA) in multi-unit residential buildings within developer led planned developments (comprising "large" and "medium" developments) to be developed and managed as middle income rental housing.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

Yes. The restrictions that are applied to designated use are found on the plot's affection plan. The affection plan is a high level general site plan which outlines what can be built on the plot of land, it height, designated use and any other requirements.

UAE nationals are entitled to buy and sell land allocated to them, provided the purpose of the allocation is not changed.

UK - England and Wales UK - England and Wales

UK - England and Wales

Yes, planning permission is required before land can be put to a new use which is a material change to a previous use. Certain limited changes of use which would otherwise be considered “material” are automatically authorized as “permitted development” under planning legislation.  In addition changes of use within the same “use class” are not considered material changes, so do not require planning permission.

UK - Scotland

UK - Scotland

Yes, planning permission is required before land can be put to a new use. Certain limited changes of use are automatically authorised as 'permitted development'.

Ukraine

Ukraine

Under Ukrainian law the development/use of a building must be in line with the zoning of the plot of land on which the building is placed. If the building has special status, ie as an object of cultural heritage or dangerous object, additional legal restrictions are usually applicable on its use and disposal. 

It should also be noted that the procedure for a change of use of a building is not clearly stipulated by Ukrainian legislation. Local regulations may provide for specific restrictions on change of use.

Furthermore, legal restrictions on the use of the underlying plot of land, eg servitudes (a legal encumbrance against property), protection zones for communications, sanitation zones, etc. could be set over the plot of land that could also impede the use of a building.

United States

United States

Yes, under most land use regimes, a use must be “permitted” by the zoning district within which the property is located. If it is not “permitted,” approval from the local zoning authority will be required in order to implement the new use.

Even in the case of a “permitted” use, some local authorities will require the issuance of an approval, such as a site plan (the civil engineering documents), building permits (for construction of the building(s)) and other permits, such as a certificate of occupancy, to authorise and document a change of designated use.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Yes, legal restrictions are put in place on the designated use of a new building. These restrictions are in the form of city by-laws, and other use-specific legislation such as the Factories and Works Act [Chapter 14:08] and Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27]. It is therefore required to inform and get approval from the city council of any change in the designated use of a building before the change takes place.

Other laws regulating the designated use would be under the National Museums and Monuments Act [Chapter 25:11] that seek to protect some culturally important places that are viewed as sacred in light of tradition and culture.