Land use conflict
Land use conflict can occur when residential development spills into industrial land, and vice versa. Image – Canva
  • What is 'land use conflict'? Why does it occur and how is it resolved?
  • Land use conflict can arise at all stages of the planning and development process
  • Residential land may infringe on retail land use, or industrial on residential

Land use conflict occurs when a land owner develops or uses (or intends to develop or use) their land in a manner that is perceived to infringe upon the rights, values or amenity of another party’s land.

They can arise at all stages of the planning process, for example on the rezoning of land, or development applications for more intense development near an industrial use with off-site emissions.

In some circumstances, land use conflicts may lead to Court proceedings. However, land use conflicts can be addressed to avoid Court proceedings, for example by the parties agreeing to retrofitting pollution control equipment on a polluting facility, or a land swap deal to relocate an industrial process.

Strategic and local planning expressed in town planning schemes and policies may also be an answer as to how conflicts can be avoided.

However, to borrow from Robert Burns, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men go often astray’.

We do not have the space here to examine, analyse or speculate in detail on why this may happen. As lawyers, we know it does because of the cases that come our way.

Examples of land use conflict

The most common examples of land use conflicts are between more sensitive uses such as ‘Residential’ and ‘Retail’ uses and ‘Industrial’ or ‘Rural’ land uses which often cause emissions of noise, dust or odour.

This is most apparent on the urban fringe, where greenfield development may result in land use conflict with established rural uses which emit noise, dust or odour.

Avoiding or managing potential future land use conflicts can be considered at the early stages of the planning process, such as when an application is made to rezone land to a different use that conflicts with existing uses of surrounding land.

Industrial land
Industrial land’s noise, dust and odour can encroach on residential properties. Image – Canva.

Urban infill

A focus on increasing the density of residential development in established suburbs through urban infill has also given rise to a nuanced range of land use conflict issues such as:

  • issues to do with the bulk and scale of mixed use developments;
  • overshadowing, particularly when larger buildings are sought to be placed on smaller building envelopes; and
  • traffic management issues.

During the planning and environmental processes, there are opportunities for the applicant, other interested parties, public authorities and members of the public to make submissions and comment.

This can often be a time when localised land use conflicts can be identified. If they are not addressed then the submissions which have identified the problem can be cited at a later stage, particularly if it is necessary to refer to an objector’s consistency.

This can be helpful if future submissions are necessary or the matter becomes litigious.

In conclusion, with increasing populations and the need to curtail urban sprawl, land use conflicts are an inevitable feature of land use and development. There is a range of means by which they may be avoided or addressed, including litigation.


For more information on land use conflicts, contact Glen McLeod Legal, (08) 6460 5179 or by email

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