Land use planning is the most commonly used tool for urban planning in urban and rural areas. The advantages of employing land use planning tool exceed its limitations. Land use planning also serves as a prerequisite for other planning tools such as density planning, master planning, environmental planning, etc. More recently, urban planners have tried to stipulate land use strategies that would suffice sustainable living goals. This essay highlights land use strategies and theories that promote sustainable living and development. 

1. Integrating Urban Agriculture

Land use planning in cities is focused on employing land that can generate an economy. In the past, when towns and villages were self-sustaining, agriculture within the community or a neighborhood was a common phenomenon. However, with the development of transportation and technology, agriculture has moved out and away from a citizen’s place of living. Post-COVID-19, a few cities have realized the importance of growing their own food, however, still many continue to rely completely on retail food. In line with the sustainability goals (2 – Zero Hunger and 3 – Good health and well-being) of the United Nations, neighborhood farming, or community farming should be encouraged. Perhaps, the most direct measure to encourage urban agricultural activities is to legalize them as permitted land-use subdivision activity and then set regulatory guidelines. The following policies can ensure the integration of urban agriculture into land use planning: (1) Allow and allot open spaces in the neighborhoods for agriculture. (2) Edible planting should be allowed in built-up areas. This also helps combat the heat island effect. (3) Additional community spaces should be allocated in the land use plan for agriculture-related activities such as training, workshops, educating and encouraging citizens, etc. (4) Create networks for ensuring the smooth supply of materials and equipment needed for farming. 

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High yield crops in urban area_©Andrei Ionescu

2. Biodiversity Conservation

Land use planning aims at making lands more productive, to use them to their best potential. These changes in land use usually affect the local species badly. For example, the world has around 20,000 species of bees and more than 50% of them are gradually getting extinct. Bees are important species as they pollinate 80% of the crops around the world. Land use planning greatly affects the biodiversity of regions, which affects the bee ecosystem. Hence, land use planning should strategize including the crops and ecosystems that would maintain the original species populations. The inevitable measure would be to integrate the planning of the urban areas with the prerequisite to conserve the biodiversity of the region. The following policies can be employed to integrate biodiversity into land use planning: (1) Use a participatory approach to reveal the local species. Representatives from a neighborhood can use a land use map to identify local species. (2) Alternative land use options must be considered that would grow local crops. (3) Develop land use maps at various scales (regional, city and neighborhood) highlighting biodiversity. 

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Example of biodiversity planning in Bornea_© Struebig M. J., Wilting A., Gaveau D. L. A., Meijaard E., Smith R. J.

3. Managing urban waters

Good land use planning includes water and water bodies as important urban features. Urban waters can be viewed for more than one purpose in land use planning. The agendas related to urban waters are water security, reducing flood risk, creating urban public spaces with water features and planning for recycled water collection and distribution. Land use planning can act as a bridge between integrating urban planning and water management strategies. The following are strategies to integrate land use planning with water management: (1) Plan locally to integrate activities between land use planners and water management authorities. (2) Institutionalize both entities and involve water management authorities from the initiation of land use planning. (3) These efforts need to be coordinated with the state water management agencies as the local land use plans are also approved by the state. 

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Holistic Water Management in Hillsborough County, Florida_©Sonia Cervantes/ iStock

4. Managing Urban Soil

Soil degradation is a growing concern. More recently, international movements and programs have made great efforts to spread awareness about soil degradation. Changes in land use and land cover involve replacing soil with complex and impervious materials. Changes in land use not only make the natural soil inaccessible but also polluted the soil with the dumping of human waste. It is thus, significant to manage urban soils in one way or the other to achieve the goal of sustainability. The following are some of the land use strategies that can be employed in urban areas to protect, preserve, and upgrade urban soils. (1) Regularize the vacant plots in urban areas to support natural ecosystems. (2) Regularize urban agriculture into land use planning by allowing lands at the plot/ community/ neighborhood level. (3) Promote urban green spaces while planning land uses.

5. Managing the Impact of Climate Change

Factually, the primary reason for changing climates, which includes the warming of temperatures and rising sea levels, is human activities. Human activities are focused on human development, and the physical development of the habitat is inevitable when aiming towards human development. The unit to measure such physical and spatial development is changing land use. Land use and climate change have a cyclic relationship. Recently, city masterplans have initiated planning for climate change. Some of the strategies are: (1) Land use planning should be sensitive to flood-prone areas. (2) Land use should guide the development towards low-risk areas and also spread awareness among the general public. (3) Stormwater management should be integrated with land use planning. (4) Land use planning should highlight urban heat islands, hence, focusing on mitigation potentials. (5) Land use planning should be integrated with climate change comprehensive plans and disaster management plans (figure 4).

Linking climate change with land use planning and disaster management_©Bajracharya, B., Childs, I., Hastings, P.


  1. Articles

Lovell S. T. (2010). Multifunctional Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Land Use Planning in the United States. Sustainability. MDPI. Vol 2, pp. 2500 – 2522.

Rugland E. (2022). Integrating Land Use and Water Management: Planning and Practice. Policy Focus Report. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Bajracharya, B., Childs, I., Hastings, P. (2011). Climate change adaptation through land use planning and disaster management: Local government perspectives from Queensland. Conference proceedings. 

  1. Online sources

United Nations. (2015). The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed date: 06/10/2022].

Commune, H. (2021). When biodiversity conservation needs inclusive land-use planning. [Online]. Available at:  [Accessed date: 06/10/2022].

  1. Images/visual mediums

Andrei Ionescu. (2022). Some crops have higher yields in an urban environment. [Photograph].

Struebig M. J., Wilting A., Gaveau D. L. A., Meijaard E., Smith R. J. (2015). Targeted Conservation to Safeguard a Biodiversity Hotspot from Climate and Land-Cover Change. Current Biology. Current Press. [Photograph].

Sonia Cervantes. (2022). Istock/ Getty Images Plus. [Photograph].

Bajracharya, B., Childs, I., Hastings, P. (2011). Climate change adaptation through land use planning and disaster management: Local government perspectives from Queensland. [Photograph].


Shikha is an urban planner whose work is focused on climate responsive planning and ecosystems in neighbourhood planning. She has a keen interest in comprehending human connections in city spaces through ways of engaging with the community. Her passion for books, travelling, fiction and research writing keeps her motivated.