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Moving Towards an Outcome-Focused Planning System

12 May 2022Audrey Rahimi4 minute read
The ACT Planning Reform project will see the ACT move towards an outcome-focused planning system. Once the Bill is progressed, the new Territory Planning Authority will review the Territory Plan controls to support an outcome-focused planning approach; however, we are yet to see what the new controls will involve. What might these new controls include? We have had a look at some examples around the world to see how outcome-focused planning systems have been implemented. In the United States, a planning system has been incorporated for years and had become more and more popular within the established communities. This planning system is called a “Form Based Code”.

What is a Form-Based Code?

A Form-Based Code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. A Form-Based Code is a regulation, not a mere guideline, adopted into city, town, or county law. A Form-Based Code offers a powerful alternative to conventional zoning regulation.

This approach contrasts with conventional zoning’s focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (such as plot ratio, dwellings per block, setbacks, parking ratios, etc.), to the neglect of an integrated built form.

In short, a Form-Based Code puts the emphasis on making sure the buildings in a neighbourhood are compatible with their surroundings, while letting the mix of actual activities in them be more eclectic. In contrast, conventional, or Euclidean, zoning code works like the game SimCity—the primary thing it regulates is allowable use, as well as the density or level of activity.

The table below provides a visual comparison between the conventional code (with and without design guidelines) and form-based code.

Table 1

Form Based Code could be a topic for consideration under the ACT Planning Reform project. Below are some reasons why our communities might want to pursue a Form-Based Code in the future:                                    

Image 1

  • Encouraging Revitalization   
  • Promoting Affordable Housing
  • Helping Small Businesses
  • Promoting Walkabilit
  • Preserving or Recapturing a Sense of Place
  • Stopping Regulating the Wrong Things     


In conclusion, Form-Based Codes are an effective way to ensure planning outcomes are achieved whilst providing designers some flexibility to work within the particular site constraints.