Urban Planning Administration

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Chapter 10
Urban Planning Administration

1. Shanghai Urban Planning Administrative Organizations

1.1 Leading Organizations

In 1994, shanghai established the “three-in-one” Shanghai Municipal Planning Commission for economic, social, and urban development planning on the basis of the former Shanghai Committee of Urban and Rural Planning and Environmental Protection. The purpose was to make the planning work better meet the new requirements of the socialist market economy and the new situation of reform, opening-up, and development.

The Planning Commission has an office under its control to act as its standing body. The director of the Shanghai Urban Planning Administration Bureau concurrently works as the office director. The Commission shares an office building with the Bureau. The Commission performs the following functions and tasks: making decisions concerning the city's planning schemes; coordinating the regional master plans; formulating and modifying important policies and guidelines with respect to the management of planning;working out, modifying, and interpreting Shanghai's urban and rural master planning; reviewing the master plans of all districts and counties and the master plan for the reform and development of key blocks; examining and approving the planning for city-related transportation, public works, environmental protection, and other key projects; approving the master plans of all districts and counties for industrial development zones, the planning for city-level economic and technical development zones, nature reserves, and other key works, as well as other key plans assigned by the Municipal Government.

1.2 Administrative Organizations

Shanghai decided to reinstate the Urban Planning and Construction Administration Bureau in order to readjust, plan, construct, and manage the city well in February 1979. The Bureau's main duties were to organize and prepare the city's master plan, regional plan, site selection for construction projects, land expropriation, relocation, issuing construction permits and other construction supervisory works, and to organize and lead the prospective design, geological, and land survey.

In 1991, Shanghai Urban Planning and Construction Administration Bureau was renamed Shanghai Urban Planning Administration Bureau upon approval by the Shanghai Municipal Government. The Planning Administration Bureau performs the following duties:

  • Exercising the rights of implementation, coordination, organization, and supervision with regard to Shanghai's urban development by following the principle of “two-tier government, two-tier management.”
  • Enforcing national laws, rules, and regulations with respect to urban planning and design, urban surveying and mapping, urban construction archives, and place name control.
  • Organizing and preparing the city's master plan, detailed planning of key districts and streets, planning of the urban road system (including planning of the main road line, road network system, and the city's rail transport system, the demarcating of the street boundaries), and other directive planning as entrusted by the Municipal Government.
  • Integrating and coordinating the plans made by other professional systems; examining and approving all urban planning programs, permission notices for the location of construction projects, land use, and building permits, while directing, supervising, and inspecting the planning work by all districts and counties.
  • Taking charge of the city's urban conceptual design, managing the qualification inspection of urban planning and design entities, and urban surveying and mapping organizations, and the issue and examination of necessary certificates.
  • Participating in the preparation of the city's short- and longterm design and annual design, with respect to social and economic development and urban construction.
  • Taking charge of the planning and control for the protection of the city's outstanding modern buildings and national-level historical sites and cultural relics, together with the departments concerned.
  • Handling other matters assigned by the Municipal Government and the Municipal Planning Commission.

1.3 District and County Urban Planning Administrative Organizations

District Planning Administrative Organization

In 1953, all district governments were allowed to establish a construction section to assist in land requisition, issuing permits for simple construction, removal of buildings, assessment and compensation, control of hazardous buildings, control of construction without a permit, and other works as necessary. These construction sections were upgraded into district construction bureaus between 1959 and 1960, and changed to urban planning and construction management offices in 1987. These offices and district planning administration bureaus formed the administrative bodies for planning and construction under the leadership of the Municipal Urban Planning Bureau. Then in 1990, the district planning and construction management office gave way to the district bureau of planning and land management. The district planning administrative organization performs the following duties:

  • Formulating plans for new zone development and old zone redevelopment in general areas within the concerned district according to the master plan.
  • Preparing other plans authorized by the departments concerned under the Municipal Urban Planning Administration Bureau and reporting such preparations as required.
  • Approving construction permits for projects with a floor area below 500 square meters.
  • Examining and approving (reporting to and filing with the Municipal Urban Planning Administration Bureau) permits for high-rise structures planned and designed for sections of the approved new zone development and old zone redevelopment, as authorized by the Municipal Urban Planning Administration Bureau.
  • Checking construction permits issued within the district concerned.
  • Coordinating, supervising, and managing planning within the district concerned and guiding the integrated development of new zones and old zones to ensure the implementation of city planning and supporting public works.
  • Leading the construction management of all street blocks.

In January 1993, the Bureau of Integrated Planning and Land Management in Shanghai Pudong New Area was established with two subordinate offices: the Planning Administration Department and the Supervision and Inspection Team.

County Planning Administrative Organization

Each county in Shanghai has a Construction Bureau to take charge of its planning administration. The bureau also sets up the Planning Station or Planning Office, Construction Management Section, and Supervision and Inspection Team. The main duties of a county construction bureau include:

  • Taking charge of the county-related master plan, and the master plan and detailed plan for cities and towns and those development zones and industrial parks under the control of the county concerned, as well as the township- and village-related planning.
  • Approving the construction works of the county-owned organizations and towns and townships, foreign and Sino-foreign joint venture works approved by the county concerned, construction works with a floor area of the host site below 1,000 square meters proposed by those Shanghai-based organizations under the control of the central ministries or departments or other provinces or Shanghai, as well as the construction of residents' and farmers' private houses.
  • Inspecting and supervising construction within the county concerned, preventing and punishing any irregular or illegal construction projects.

2. Legislative System for Urban Planning

The legislative system of urban planning means a summary of laws, rules, and regulations applicable to the preparation of urban planning and control over its implementation. The Chinese regulatory system of urban planning centers on the City Planning Law of the People's Republic of China promulgated by the National People's Congress, including the urban planning-related administrative and local regulations, and departmental and local rules and regulations. This regulatory system is closely related to other relevant laws, rules, and regulations and technical standards for urban planning.

2.1 Architecture of the Legislative System for Urban Planning

According to the Law on Legislation of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese legislative system for urban planning shall include the five parts as below.


All laws are made by the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee to regulate various social relations in urban planning. Such laws are composed of the fundamental law—the City Planning Law of the People's Republic of China—and separate regulations. The City Planning Law has been in force since 1990 to provide control over the systematic preparation and implementation of China's urban planning. It is the fundamental law of China's urban planning regulatory system and a binding force on the formulation of urban planning laws, rules, and regulations at all levels.

Administrative Regulations

Administrative Regulations are legal documents prepared by the State Council concerning urban planning according to the Constitution and laws. They include the bylaws, decisions, provisions, and procedures, whose contents are more specific and detailed than laws. Although administrative-level regulations are different from laws, both are the materialization of the state's will, and also act as the basis for the making of Local Regulations and local and departmental rules and regulations.

Local Regulations, Autonomous Decrees, and Special Decrees

The People's Congress and its Standing Committee of provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, and approved big cities may work out local regulations concerning urban planning according to their specific conditions without prejudice to the Constitution, the City Planning Law, and administrative regulations. For instance, the Standing Committee of Shanghai Municipal People's Congress has approved Regulations of Shanghai Municipality on City Planning.

Departmental Regulations

All ministries and commissions directly under the State Council may work out regulations within the limits of their authority according to the laws and the State Council's administrative regulations, decisions, and decrees.

The Ministry of Construction is the competent administrative organization for urban planning, and it has formulated a series of departmental regulations concerning urban planning according to the City Planning Law, such as:

  • Methods for Urban Plan Formulation (1991).
  • Regulations on the Assignment and Transfer of the Right to the Use of State-Owned Land in Urban Areas (1992).
  • Regulations on the Review and Approval of the Formulation of City and Town System Planning (1994).
  • Regulations on Economic Development Zone Planning (1995).
  • Regulations on the Development and Utilization of Urban Underground Space (1997).
  • Regulations on Qualifications of Urban Planning Drafters (2001).

In addition, some departmental regulations closely relating to urban planning are jointly drafted and promulgated by the Ministry of Construction and other ministries/commissions concerned. One example is the Regulations on the Planning of Site Selection for Construction Projects released by the Ministry of Construction and the State Planning Commission in 1991.

Local Regulations

Governments at such levels as province, autonomous region, municipality, and greater city may make the urban planning-related regulations according to laws, administrative regulations, and the provincial, autonomous regional, and municipal local regulations. For instance, Shanghai Municipal Government issued the Technical Provisions of Shanghai Municipality on Administration of Urban Planning.

2.2 Major Laws, Regulations, and Standards

The City Planning Law of the People's Republic of China

The City Planning Law of the People's Republic of China (the City Planning Law) was officially approved and promulgated by the National People's Congress in 1989 and came into effect from April 1, 1990. The City Planning Law has since enabled governments at all levels to prepare urban planning scientifically. It has also provided the legal authority to implement urban planning in a stable and continual manner, which in turn has promoted the coordinated development of China's economy and society.

As China's reform and opening-up continue in width and depth, new issues have emerged which the City Planning Law cannot properly address. The Ministry of Construction is now considering amending the law.

Supporting Laws and Regulations

To better implement the City Planning Law, the State Council and related ministries or commissions have introduced a series of supporting laws and regulations regarding the preparation, approval, and implementation of urban planning, including:

  • Administrative Rules Concerning Village and Town Planning and Construction.
  • Methods for Urban Plan Formulation, Regulations on the Review and Approval of the Formulation of City and Town System Planning.
  • Regulations on the Planning and Construction of Organic Towns.
  • Regulations on the Assignment and Transfer of the Right to the Use of State-Owned Land in Urban Areas.
  • Regulations on Economic Development Zone Planning.

Technical Standards for Urban Planning

Technical standards in this regard can be divided into two classes: national standards and local standards. National standards are mostly formulated by the Ministry of Construction, which include:

  • General standards and specifications, such as Basic Terminology of Urban Planning, Classification of City Land Use and Standards of Land Use Planning and Construction Land, Classification Codes for Usage of Municipal Terra and Standards for Climatic Zoning for Building and Civil Engineering, and so on.
  • Standards and specifications for the formulation of urban planning, such as Detailed Rules for the Implementation of Urban Planning Formulation, Requirements for the Formulation of Protection Planning of Famous Historical and Cultural Towns, Code of Urban Residential Area Planning and Design, and Standards for the Planning of Towns and Villages, and so on.
  • Standards for specialized planning and design in urban planning, such as the Standards for Transport Planning on Urban Roads, Standards for Urban Engineering Pipeline Comprehensive Planning, Standards for Parking Lot Planning and Design, and other standards for planning and design of urban flood control, water supply, and power supply, and so on.

Other Laws and Regulations Governing Urban Planning

Urban planning also involves many other national laws and codes. These include the Land Administration Law, Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Environmental Protection Law, Law on |Administration of Real Estate, Water Law, Law on the Protection of Military Installations, Law on People's Air Defense, Advertisement Law, Construction Law, Highway Law, Regulations on the Administration of Urban Roads, Regulations on the Protection of Basic Farmland, Regulations on Urban Afforestation, Interim Regulations on the Protection, and Administration of Scenic Areas.

3. Management Procedures and Application Requirements for City Planning

3.1 One Note, Two Permits

The City Planning Law of the People's Republic of China provides for a system of “one note, two permits” for the management of construction project planning. The “one note” refers to the permission note for site selection while “two permits” mean the construction land planning permit and the construction project planning permit.

According to the City Planning Law, a permission note for site selection issued by the urban planning administrative department is required when the planned projects are submitted for ratification. Files issued by national administrative departments approving the building projects are needed for land-use application. Upon receipt of the application, the urban planning administrative department will verify the scope and boundary of the construction site before issuing the land use permit. Only when the land use permit is obtained can an application for the construction land be made to the land administration department. The said department will define the requirements on building planning and design, and issue a construction project permit. Only after that can the construction be started.

3.2 Procedures for Applying for the Permission Note

3.3 Procedures for Applying for Construction Land Planning Permit

3.4 Procedures for Applying for the Construction Project Planning Permit

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Urban Planning Administration

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