Subdivision Practice in Town Planning

Subdivision and site design standards are used by communities to regulate how parcels of land are divided into developable lots, and how those lots are subsequently designed and laid out through the development process. Subdivision typically includes the creation of a sketch plan (showing basic lot layout and provisions for public infrastructure), and subsequent creation of a more detailed preliminary plat (indicating building footprints and specific measurements), and then culminating in a final plat that creates the new lots. Abbreviated procedures are typically established for minor subdivisions that involve the creation of just a handful of lots. 

Site design standards are related and define the basic parameters for development on individual lots, including maximum or minimum lot size, how buildings are situated on a lot, traffic and circulation patterns, pedestrian connectivity, preservation of open areas, and avoidance of hazardous areas. 

Communities increasingly consider hazard mitigation when adopting site layout standards. For example, applicants are required to avoid mapped hazard areas (like floodplains) in new development or to develop strategies to mitigate the hazard risk. In terms of hazard mitigation, the primary benefit of adopting effective subdivision and site design standards is to ensure that new development occurs in a high quality, well designed manner that avoids potential high hazard areas, in addition to meeting other important community goals. Other benefits include: 

  • Effective at managing new development in growing communities. Clearly defining hazard areas allows elected officials to say no to new development in unsafe areas. 
  • Provides additional protection for defined hazard areas without negotiation on a case by case basis. Approval criteria can be stated in the code, making expectations clear to the developer and the decision makers. 
  • Can be tailored to fit a common set of review procedures. Adding natural hazards as a component of existing subdivision regulations can be done relatively easily through an ordinance amendment. 
  • Relatively easy to maintain over time, following initial adoption.

Subdivision of Land 

Earlier in every city much land is either vacant or inefficiently used – speculative prospect. Various methods have been proposed to emphasize taxation on land. Necessity for regulations over the subdivision of urban land was urgent, since use and development of land constitute a right best owed by the community upon the individual and this right may be withdrawn if he violates the conditions. A piece of land divided into more than 8 parcels, each of which is to be sold separately is called Layout, whereas less than or equal to 8 divisions is called a subdivision of land. 
To the land developer the subdividing of land is primarily a matter of profit. To the community, it is a matter of public concern, activities determine quality of living. Many elements in the overall plan are realized at the time the land is developed, highways, streets and alleys, sewer and water lines, power lines, schools, transportation lines, police and fire protection etc. 

Subdivision Procedure 

  • Land is surveyed 
  • Officials records consulted – proposed highway, special easements, right of way etc. 
  • Amenities, cultural and social facilities 
  • Refer Subdivision ordinances
  • Planner or engineer to prepare preliminary plan – include size, shape no of lots, location of streets, radii, drainage, utilities etc. 
  • Estimate is prepared – cost of development 
  • Tentative map is file with local agency – approval obtained else incorporate suggestion made, if any and re-submit

Sub Division Practice 

Local Administration and Social Welfare Department Kerala building rules 1984. In the case of residential development, every plot shall have an average width of not less than 7.5 m and an average depth of not less than 12m. In the case of row housing where side open spaces are not required , plots shall have an average width of not less than 4.5 m and an average depth of not less than 10 m. Area of any newly subdivided, reconstituted or building plots shall not be less than 1.2 Ares (120 sq.m). Every plot shall have a frontage of not less than 6 m on any abutting street. 
According to Rule no 27 of KMBR, for developments including land subdivision and plot development for residential use.- All new developments including land subdivisions and plot developments shall be subject to the following, namely:- 
  1. The area of any newly subdivided plot, reconstituted plot or building plot shall be not less than 125 square meters with an average width of 6.m: provided that for row housing where side open spaces are not required, it is sufficient if the plot has an average width of 4.50 m. 
  2. Every plot shall have a frontage of not less than 4 meters on any abutting street. 
  3. Every street shall have not less than 7.00 meters width and shall be motorable. 
  4. When the area of the land under development work, layout or subdivision is 50 Ares or more, ten percent of the total area shall be provided for recreational open spaces and shall be suitably located to be accessible the residents of the layout. Provided that while considering the area of the land, the area of any contiguous land belonging to the same owner, though not proposed immediate development shall be taken into account. 
  5. The recreational open space to be provided under item (iv) shall have an access as if it were a separate plot and as far as possible it shall be in 1 piece and in no case less than 2 areas in area with a minimum width of 6 m. 
  6. The layout or subdivision proposal shall be in conformity with the provisions of published or sanctioned development plan for the area and if the land is affected by any reservation for a public purpose, the Secretary may agree to adjust its exact location to suit the development but not so as to affect its area. 
  7. The street junctions shall be splayed or rounded off to give sufficient turning radii and sight distance for vehicles and the side if the splay shall be a minimum of 4 meters for roads up to 10 meters and shall be a minimum of 1 meters for roads exceeding 10 meters width. 
  8. In the case of lay out or sub division of land having an area of two hectares or more a suitable plot for an electric transformer shall be provided. 
  9. In the case of development permits, approval of the District Town Planner shall be obtained for land up to 0.5 hectares in area and approval of chief Town Planner shall be obtained for land exceeding that area. 
  10. If the site forms part of approved layout, copy of sub division layout shall be enclosed along with the plans for approval. 
  11. Adequate arrangements for surface water drainage shall be provided.

Residential Plots 

The area of any newly subdivided plot, reconstituted plot or building plot shall be not less than 125 square meters with an average width of 6.00 meters, provided that for row housing where side open spaces are not required, it is sufficient if the plot has an average width of 4.50 meters. Every plot shall have a frontage of not less than 4 meters on any abutting street; every street shall have not less than 7.00 meters width and shall be motorable: Provided that in the case of cul-de-sacs with length not exceeding 250 meters, it is sufficient if the street (cul-de-sac) has not less than 5.00m width and in the case of cul-de-sacs not exceeding 75 meters, it is sufficient if the street (cul-de-sac) has not less than 3.00 meters width. 
According to Rule 29 development including land sub-division and plot development for industrial development.- All new developments including land sub divisions and plot developments shall be subject to the following:- 
  1. The width of every new street, public or private, intended for use as a cart or carriage way giving access to or through an organized industrial area with not less than six constituent units, shall be minimum 10 meters: Provided that in the case of small industrial units or cul-de-sac not exceeding 150 meters length, the minimum road width shall be 7 meters. 
  2. The minimum size of industrial plot abutting street shall be 400 sq. meters in extent with a width of not less than 15 meters: Provided that the minimum plot requirement in item (ii) shall not apply to small industrial units. 
  3. In industrial layouts a place for installation of transformer shall be provided in consultation with the Chief Electrical Inspector or an officer authorized by him. 
  4. The approval of the Chief Town Planner or an officer authorized by him shall be obtained for the layout of industrial streets and land sub-division exceeding five plots. Note:- For the purpose of these rules small industrial unit means an industrial unit classified as such by Government from time to time or an industrial unit not included in Schedule 1 of the Factories Act, 1948. 
  5. The usage of plots proposed for development or redevelopment shall be governed by the provisions contained in the development plan or detailed town planning scheme prepared for the locality. Provided that where no such plan exists, the usage of plots shall be as approved by the Chief Town Planner or an officer authorized by him.



Zoning describes the control by authority of the use of land, and of the buildings thereon. Areas of land are divided by appropriate authorities into zones within which various uses are permitted. Zoning is the process of planning for land use by a locality to allocate certain kinds of structures in certain areas. Zoning also includes restrictions in different zoning areas, such as height of buildings, use of green space, density (number of structures in a certain area), use of lots, and types of businesses. Levels or types of zoning include open space, residential, retail, commercial, agricultural, and industrial. 

Zoning is the application of common sense and fairness to public regulation governing the use of private land. Zoning can be defined as the creation by law of the zones such as residential, commercial, industrial, civic, institutional and recreational in which regulations prevent misuse of lands and buildings and limit their height and densities of population differing in different zones. Zoning sets apart different areas in the town for specific purposes. It prevents encroachment of one zone upon another adjacent to it. While planning a city the area of town can be divided into following zones.

1. Industrial zone 

2. Administrative zone 

3. Business zone 

4. Open space 

5. Residential zone 

    a) Different zone for different height 

    b) Zone for single family 

    c) Zone for two family 

    d) Zone for apartment houses 

6. Recreational zone 

7. Local administrative zone 

8. Agricultural zone 

Objectives of Zoning 

The objects or purposes of zoning are as follows. 

  • To lessen congestion in streets. 
  • To secure safety of fire and other hazards. 
  • To promote health and general welfare. 
  • To provide adequate light and air. 
  • To protect the value of property. 
  • To prevent over-concentration of population. 
  • To facilitate transportation, water supply, sewerage, schools, parks etc. 
  • To encourage the most appropriate use of land. 
  • The town planner gets ample opportunities for designing the future growth and development of town. 
  • Zoning proves to be an effective instrument in case of any review or modification in order to make town planning scheme more effective and successful.

Principles of Zoning 

The main principles of zoning can be briefly summarized as follows.
1. Arrangement of zones 

The usual pattern of zones is in central area and undeveloped area. The other pattern of zones would be to provide blocks or units for various uses in different parts of the town.

2. Boundaries 

The design of boundaries for different zones should be carefully made. A railway line or a park or an open green space may prove to be satisfactory boundary. 

3. Existing towns 

When zoning is to be applied to an existing town, the information regarding the existing use of land is gathered and as far as possible, the town is divided into zones by considering the predominant use in the particular areas. 

4. Flexibility 

The principles of zoning may be rigidly enforced. But at the same time, care should be taken to observe flexibility in working out the details for zoning. For instance, homes should be very near to places of work to reduce time of travel. Similarly, the small shopping centres for day today requirements should be allowed in residential zone. 

5. New towns 

For designing a new town of known population, the areas required for residence, industry and business are worked out with the help of suitable methods. The town is divided into suitable zones. 

Advantages of Zoning 

Following are the advantages of zoning. 
  • Business or commercial areas are separately located with their garages and service stations at a distance from the residential areas. 
  • The industrial area is located away from the residential area so it is not affected by dangerous gases, smoke etc. 
  • The population is distributed throughout the town by zoning, so there will be no concentration of population in any one particular zone. 
  • Height zoning regulates the height of the buildings. Hence high rise buildings will not be allowed to construct near small houses. 
  • The zoning permits the economic use of various public utility services such as water supply, drainage lines, and telephone lines etc. 
  • A land in the form of recreational area is provided to use as playgrounds, stadiums, parks, talkies, etc. 
  • Zoning promotes health, safety, prosperity, orderly development and overall welfare of community. 
  • The zoning results into minimum chances of fire occurrence. 
  • If zoning is adopted, it results into controlled future development of the town.

Densities of a Town 

  1. Overall town density = Total population / Total town area 
  2. Developed area density = Total population / Total developed area 
  3. Gross residential area density = Total population / Total residential area 
  4. Net residential area density = Total population / Net residential area 
  5. Accommodation density = Number of habitable rooms / Area 
  6. Occupancy rate = Number of persons / Number of habitable rooms 
  7. Floor Space Index = Total built up area / Plot area

Types of Zoning 

1) Density Zoning 

In density zoning, the density of population in the residential areas is controlled by means of suitable rules and regulations. The density of population per unit area may either be expressed as gross density or net density. The gross density is the average density of population per unit area of the whole area. The net density is defined as the average density of population per unit of the housing area, including local roads only, excluding open spaces, public institutions, shopping centres etc. 
The following are the indirect measures adopted to have effective density zoning. 
  • The front, side, and rear margins from the boundaries are specified. 
  • The maximum height of the building is specified. 
  • The minimum size of allotment for each house is specified. 
  • The number of houses per unit area is limited. 
  • The ratio of total site area to the total built-up floor area is specified. 
The advantages of density zoning are as follows. 
  • It promotes healthy conditions, as population is distributed throughout the town. 
  • It prevents over-crowding. 
  • It facilitates the proper layout and designing of various public amenities and services. 
  • The land values are stabilized. 
  • It ensures enough light and ventilation to the residences.

2) Height Zoning 

The main objects of height zoning are as follows. 
  • To supply enough daylight to the buildings 
  • To cause reasonable traffic movement 
It aims to control the height of buildings with due consideration of the following. 
  • Bulk and cubical contents of the buildings 
  • Street width and other adjacent marginal open spaces 
Due to height zoning, there is considerable setback in the design of high rise buildings or skyscrapers. The restriction on the height of buildings will depend on nature of building, type of zone and climatic conditions. 

Advantages of height zoning are as follows. 
  • It does not allow tall buildings to come up nearby smaller buildings. 
  • It establishes minimum standards in terms of light, air and space, thereby creates healthy conditions. 
  • It controls the setback from roads. 
  • It helps to construct the buildings with uniform height, which gives aesthetic appearance. 
  • It controls the land values. 

3) Use Zoning/Land Use Zoning 

  • The main principle of use zoning is to divide the city into different zones, in correct location with respect to the others. 
  • It avoids the encroachment of one zone upon another adjoining it.
  • Utilization of each zone according to the purpose for which it is allocated. 
  • Factories and industries on the residential areas can be completely avoided. 
  • This zone provides open spaces, privacy and good health for the inhabitants of the town. 
  • It results into stabilization of land values. 
  • It provides better traffic facilities, water lines, sewer lines and use of other public utility and amenities in an efficient way. 
Under the Use zoning the town is divided into the following. 

a) Residential Zone 

This is very important zone of the town, where the people of the town live together in large number. This zone covers an area of 40 - 50% of total land. The buildings coming under this zone are single family houses, semi-detached houses, group housing, chawl, flats, skyscrapers etc. 
The following are the points considered while locating residential zones. 
  • Near to the market, free from noise and smoke, parks and playgrounds should be close by. 
  • It should have certain amount of privacy and separated from other zones by wide strip of green belt which may consists of parks and parkways etc. 
  • Speedy travel and communication facilities. 
  • Peaceful surroundings, as far as possible from industries and business zones. 
  • Healthy environment with respect to hygienic and sanitary requirements.

b) Industrial Zone 

This zone covers an area of 5 - 20%. This is next to the residential zone in terms of importance. Hence great care should be exercised in locating the industries. The following are the points considered while locating industrial zones. 
  • Minor industries like bakeries, dairies, laundries may be grouped and located close to the residential zone for the benefit of inhabitants. 
  • Light industries and factories like manufacture of glass, porcelain, and ice etc. which use only electric power can be located anywhere on the periphery of the town. 
  • Heavy industries giving out obnoxious (or harmful) gases and the industries causing noise such as manufacture of cement, steel and other such material should be located on the outskirts of the town. 
  • The special industries producing undesirable trade wastes and by-products may be located far away from town in spacious grounds.

c) Commercial Zone 

This zone covers an area of 2 - 5%. This zone consists of markets, banks, ware-houses (go downs) and business offices. These should be located near centres of traffic and as far as along the road sides. 

d) Civic Zone 

This zone covers an area of 2 - 3%. This contains all public buildings like town hall, court, public libraries, post office, museum, auditorium, bank, showrooms, stores and houses for the employed under the government. 

e) Institutional Zone 

This zone covers an area of 1 - 2%. This zone contains schools, colleges, institutions etc.

f) Recreational Zone 

This is planned in the remaining area of the town, usually 15 - 20%. This is an important zone since it provides healthy environment for the people. It mainly includes parks, playgrounds, stadiums, cinemas, community centres. Generally, the various units of recreational zone are scattered throughout the town. 
In urban planning as well as transportation planning, land use is the object of zonal characterization. Each land use zone is subject to a series of regulations depicting what can be built in terms of nature, function and density, giving tools to municipal governments to influence urban development. Single use zoning, also known as Euclidean zoning, is a tool of urban planning that controls land uses in a city. 
There are four major types of land use zoning. 

1) Functional Zoning 

The most prevalent form of zoning where land use zones are defined according to their function such as commercial, residential or industrial. Each zone type is subject to specific rules and regulations concerning the type of activities that can be built. 

2) Form Based Zoning 

Define zones according to their physical characteristics, mostly from an urban identity perspective such as the downtown area. This form of zoning is usually easier to relate to the general population since it uses zonal definitions that are well known. 

3) Intensity Zoning 

Defines land use zones by the level of permitted intensity, such as the number of residential units per unit of surface or allowed commercial surface. Such regulation enables a level of flexibility in urban development since it permits developers to select which types of development takes place as long as this development abides by density constraints. 

4) Incentive Zoning 

Often part of revitalization or development plans where developers are allowed to build residential, commercial or industrial (manufacturing, warehousing) projects in specific areas through the provision of various incentives such as tax abatement or basic infrastructure (road, utilities, public transport services). 
It is common that more than one type of zoning will be applied to a city, which can lead to some conflicts and discrepancies between stakeholders. The issue is to try to establish a balance between the restrictions imposed by zoning regulations and the dynamic market forces of urban development.

Uses of land 

The use of land in town planning can broadly be classified in to following two categories. 

1) Profit Making Use 

The land which is developed with profit making motives, for e.g. sites developed for offices, residences, industries etc. 

2) Non Profit Making Use 

The land which is developed without any motive of making profit. It includes roads, parks, playgrounds, educational buildings and government offices. The main nonprofit making use in urban area will naturally be the roads.


Town Planning Legislation in India

Certain planning legislation introduced in different parts of India, before independence. There is no continuity or uniformity in the legislations of various States. Different States had different provisions for town planning measures either under the Municipal Acts or under special enactments, such as City Improvement Trust Acts or Town Planning Acts. It is only after independence that all the States are putting their heads together to evolve a common policy on town and country planning matters. With the growth of urban problems, the municipalities utterly failed to respond to the changing situations. 

The work involved in planning, improvement and extension of towns was so complex and great that the municipalities were unable to carry on these works effectively. There were reasons for their failure. Firstly, due to ignorance and disunity, secondly, lack of imagination and interest, thirdly, lack of trained personnel and sufficient funds and fourthly, lack of legal backing to effectively implement town planning schemes and projects. As a result, overcrowding, congestion, deterioration and haphazard development have seen in most of our cities and towns. However, certain enlightened States enacted special acts enacted and they give an idea as to the measures taken and the efforts made by government, though in a very limited way, to improve the living conditions of the people in urban areas and guide the future growth of the urban centres in a planned manner. The main town planning acts include;

Town planning acts in India

Kerala Town and Country Planning Act, 2016
This act is to provide for the promotion of planned development and regulation of growth of urban and rural areas in the State with focus on scientific spatial planning and to secure to their present and future inhabitants, sanitary conditions, amenity and convenience and for other matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This act was revised in 2019.


Provisions of Town Planning Act

To manage the transformation of India’s cities and towns and effectively manage new growth requires effective urban planning protocols, processes and institutions underpinned by effective legislation. To effectively manage the new growth, it is essentially means that the irregular landholdings and plots will have to be given regular shapes they must be ordered each plot must be given access; infrastructure services such as water supply and drainage must be provided; land must be appropriated for providing roads, parks, social amenities, and low income housing, development controls must be prescribed to result in a good quality built form and levy development or betterment charges to offset the cost of developing the physical and social infrastructure. 

Town Planning Act

India Due to the rapid industrial growth coupled with increasing level of urbanization during mid-century, the recognition of the need for viewing urban development as one whole integrated development in which each sector has a definite role to play and not in unrelated manner, was felt by the town planners. Town Planning Law is not new in India. The history of town planning legislation in India dates back to early part of the 20th century when the erstwhile Bombay Presidency took the lead in enacting the first town planning legislation in the country viz. The Bombay Town Planning Act, 1915 which came into force on 6th March, 1915. 
This Act was then followed by other provinces later on. The Bombay act of 1915 mainly provided for; 
  • The preparation of Town Planning Schemes (TPS) for areas in course of development within the jurisdiction of local authority 
  • The recovery by planning authority of betterment contribution from the owners of benefited lands. 
It was observed that T.P. schemes prepared under the 1915 act resulted in the piecemeal planning having no relation with the adjoining areas. Thus, to have a planned development of every square inch of the land within the municipal limits the need for another. 
Statutory process of master plan formulation in India was inspired by the erstwhile comprehensive planning system envisaged under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947 of United Kingdom.

Model Regional and Town Planning and Development Law, 1985 

Town and Country Planning Organization (TCPO) formulated the Model Town and Country Planning Law in the year 1960. This model Act was revised by TCPO in year 1985 as “Model Regional and Town Planning and Development Law” to enact a comprehensive urban and regional planning legislation in all the States and UT’s (Union Territories). The main contents include;
  • Constitution of State Regional and Town Planning Board by the State Government for the purpose of advising on the delineation of the region for the planned development 
  • Directing the preparation of metropolitan, regional and area plans by the metropolitan, regional and area planning and development authorities 
  • Setting up of metropolitan, regional and area planning and development authorities for different urban and rural areas within the State to undertake preparation of development plans and to enforce and implement them 
  • Coordinating the planning and implementation of physical development programmes
Model Law provided 3 steps for the administration of this law. 
  1. Preparation of existing land use map 
  2. Preparation of an outline development plan and comprehensive development plan and their enforcement 
  3. Preparation of detailed schemes of development or redevelopment as envisaged in the plans and their implementation 
Based on the Model Regional and Town Planning and Development Law,1985 ,many states enacted their Town and Country Acts. However, states like Haryana, Rajasthan and UT of Chandigarh do not have comprehensive Town and Country Planning Acts. Out of 7933 Towns, about 2032 towns have Master Plans (1483 notified +549 under preparation). 

Space Standards for Facility Areas and Utilities

The planning of amenities and utility services include the facilities like educational, medical, transport, housing, electricity, post and telegraph, telephone exchange, police station, fire station, community hall and library, cinema theatre, swimming pool, stadium, open air theatre, religious building, auditorium, parks, play grounds, water supply, drainage, sanitation, burial ground etc.

 Medical facilities

Planning standards for civic amenities and community facilities

Other facilities

Water supply consumption

Desirable land use pattern (Percentage)

Traffic and transportation


Spatial Standards for Recreational Area

The purpose of the recreation areas is to provide adequate recreational facilities to serve the residents of the development. Open space is any open piece of land that is undeveloped (has no buildings or other built structures) and is accessible to the public. Open space can include: Green space (land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation). Green space includes parks, community gardens and cemeteries. Schoolyards, playgrounds, public seating areas, public plazas and vacant lots open space provides recreational areas for residents and helps to enhance the beauty and environmental quality of neighbourhoods. 

The opportunity to attain and maintain good physical and mental health is an inherent right of all residents of the planning area. The provision of outdoor recreation sites and related open space areas contributes to the attainment and maintenance of physical and mental health by providing opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities. An integrated park and related open space system, properly related to the natural resource base, can generate the dual benefits of satisfying recreational demands in an appropriate setting while protecting and preserving valuable natural resources. Finally, an integrated system of outdoor recreation sites and related open space areas can contribute to the orderly growth of the planning area by lending form and structure to urban.

Table Parks, playgrounds and open spaces