Sustainable Land Governance

Dec 2009 | No Comment

This paper provides the concept of land administration systems for dealing with rights, restrictions and responsibilities in future spatially enabled government. Readers may recall the first part of the paper in November 2009 issue. Here is the concluding part.

Prof Stig Enemark

FIG President
Aalborg University, Denmark

Property restrictions

Ownership and long term leasehold are the most important rights in land. The actual content of these rights may vary between countries and jurisdictions, but in general the content is well understood. Rights to land also include the rights of use. This right may be limited through public land use regulations and restrictions, sectoral land use provisions, and also various kind of private land use regulations such as easements, covenants, etc. Many landuse rights are therefore in fact restrictions that control the possible future use of the land. Land-use planning and restrictions are becoming increasingly important as a means to ensure effective management of land-use, provide infrastructure and services, protect and improve the urban and rural environment, prevent pollution, and pursue sustainable development. Planning and regulation of land activities cross-cut tenures and the land rights they support. How these intersect is best explained by describing two conflicting points of view – the free market approach and the central planning approach.

Fig. 5 Integrated land-use management for sustainable development (Enemark, 2004).

Fig. 6 The Land Management Paradigm (Enemark, 2004)

The free market versus the central planning approach

The property rights activists, most of them influenced by private ownership viewpoints, argue that land owners should be obligated to no one and should have complete domain over their land. In this extreme position, the government opportunity to take land (eminent domain), or restrict its use (by planning systems), or even regulate how it is used (building controls) should be non-existent or highly limited. Proponents argue that planning restrictions should only be imposed after compensation for lost land development opportunities is paid (Jacobs 2007).

Throughout the European territory, another view appeared. In this, the role of a democratic government includes planning and regulating land systematically for public good purposes. Regulated planning is theoretically separated from taking private land with compensation and using it for public purposes. In these jurisdictions the historical assumption that a land owner could do anything than was not expressly forbidden by planning regulations changed into the different principle that land owners could do only what was expressly allowed, everything else being forbidden.The tension between these two points of view is especially felt by nations seeking economic security. The question however is how to balance owners’ rights with the necessity and capacity of the government to regulate land use and development for the best of the society. The answer to this is found in a country’s land policy which should set a reasonable balance between the ability of land owners to manage their land and the ability of the government to provide services and regulate growth for sustainable development.

Environmental concerns

Environmental policies should emphasise that economic growth can be achieved simultaneously with improvements to the environment. Industries must be able to absorb – constructively and economically – environmental considerations into their development. Policies may be based on the “polluter pays principle” which is internationally recognized. Enterprises should be located at a site causing least possible pollution and should adopt the measures necessary to prevent pollution to the greatest possible extent. These principles are the basis of recent global/ national carbon trading initiatives.

Informal development

Informal development may occur in various forms such as squatting where vacant state-owned or private land is occupied and used illegally for housing or any construction works without having formal permission from the planning or building authorities.

There is no simple solution to the problems of preventing and legalising informal development. The problems relate mainly to the national level of economic wealth in combination with the level of social and economic equity in society, while the solutions relate to the level of consistent land policies, good governance, and well established institutions. Guidance for solutions can be found in the concept of integrated landuse management as presented below with a focus on the means of decentralisation, comprehensive planning, and public participation. Although some occurrences of illegal development, such as in post conflict situations, may be difficult to stop, many other forms of illegal development could be significantly reduced through government interventions supported by the citizens. (Enemark and McLaren, 2008).

Integrated Land-Use Management

Integrated land-use management is based on land policies laid down in the overall land policy laws including the cadastral and land registration legislation and planning and building legislation. These laws identify the institutional principles and procedures for the areas of land and property registration, landuse panning, and land development. These laws identify the objectives within the various areas and the institutional

Fig. 7 Signifi cance of the Cadastre (Williamson and Wallace, 2007)

arrangements to achieve these objectives through permit procedures, information policies, dispute handling, and so on. Importantly, a mature system of comprehensive planning control needs to be based on appropriate and updated land use data systems, especially the cadastral register, the land book, the property valuation register, the building and dwelling register, etc. These registers need to be organized to form a network of integrated subsystems connected to the cadastral and topographic maps to form a national spatial data infrastructure for the natural and built environment.

Property responsibilities

Property responsibilities relate to a more social, ethical commitment or attitude to environmental sustainability and good husbandry. Individuals and other actors are supposed to treat land and property in a way that conform to cultural traditions and ways of good ethical behaviour. This relates to what is accepted both legally and socially. Therefore, the systems for managing the use of land vary throughout the world according to historical development and cultural traditions. More generally, the human kind to relationship is to some extent determined by the cultural and administrative development of the country or jurisdiction.
This relates to cultural dimensions as described by the Dutch scientist Gert Hofstede, especially the dimensions of: Uncertainty avoidance, that is the preference of structured situations over unstructured or flexible ones; and Power distance, that is the degree of inequality among people accepted by the population (Gert Hofstede, 2001). These cultural dimensions determine the social and ethical behaviour of people also in relation to the way land can be hold and used within a given culture. Systems of land tenure and land-use control therefore vary throughout the world according to such cultural differences.
Social responsibilities of land owners have a long heritage in Europe. In Germany, for example, the Constitution is insisting on the land owner´s social role. In general Europe is taking a comprehensive and holistic approach to land management by building integrated information and administration systems. Other regions in the world such as Australia creates separate commodities out of land, using the concept of “unbundling land rights”, and is then adapting the land administration systems to accommodate this trading of rights without any national approach (Williamson and Wallace, 2007).

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