In order to improve land management and balance natural resources with industrial development, the Legislative Yuan passed the "National Land Use Planning Act" (the "Act") on 18 December 2015.The Act is expected to take effect in June 2016, and will serve as the supreme guiding principle of national land use and zoning.

The major points of the Act are summarized as follows:

1. Affirmation of the supremacy of the Act. After the Act takes effect, the central national land use plan promulgated by the Central and the regional land use plans promulgated by the various Municipal or County/City Governments will replace the current central plan and regional plans, respectively.The current urban plans and national park management plans shall be formulated or amended to be in line with the national land use plans.

2. Demarcation of national land types zoning. National land will be, by and large, demarcated into "Conservation Zone", "Marine Resources Zone", "Agricultural Development Zone", and "City and County Development Zone".In addition, "Metropolis Zone" and "Specialized Zone" and "National Land Restoration Zone" can be demarcated if circumstances require.

3. Establishment of land use permits system. Under the national land types zoning, for land uses "over a certain scale" or "of a peculiar nature", the user shall apply to the competent authority for a use permit, and such use shall not alter the demarcated land types zoning.If the aforementioned land use is without a land use permit or is inconsistent with the designated zoning, the user may be subject to administrative fines or even criminal liability such as fines or imprisonment, if such uses result in calamities.

4. Establishment of transparent and public supervision mechanism. During the drafting process of the national land use plans, the competent authorities shall hold public exhibitions and hearings, and opinions submitted by citizens or interest groups shall be taken into consideration.If an application of land use permit is in violation of the Act and the competent authority fails to enforce the Act, the victims or public interest groups may directly file a lawsuit against the competent authority.

5. Provision of measures protecting people's rights.After the national land use plans are promulgated, existing buildings and facilities which are consistent with the original regional plans may maintain its original use.Appropriate compensation shall be granted if the competent authority alters such land use or have the user evicted from his/her/its land when necessary.

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) estimates that after the Act takes effect, it will take around six years to complete the drafting of all national land use plans.The MOI expects that the review process for granting a land use permit under the Act would be less time-consuming than that under the current laws and regulations.That being said, whether the Act will, as envisioned, balance industrial and economic development with sustainable development of natural environment better than the current laws and regulations remains to be seen.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.