Town Planning Review

From property rights to public control: The quest for public interest in the control of urban development

Town Planning Review (2002), 73, (2), 153–170.

Abstract

The control of urban development within the modern British planning system is legitimated by reference to public interest. This legitimation implies a clear understanding of private property rights and the boundary between public and private domains. Such a distinction is of fairly recent origin, however. This paper argues that the maturing of the planning system in this country depended on the development of freehold property rights. It traces the evolution of thinking and practice in relation to private property from the Middle Ages onwards and sets them alongside the attempts to control urban form and land use. It concludes that, though the modern system does indeed depend on the distinction between public and private interest, the distinction is by no means as simple as the system's creators proposed.

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Booth, Philip