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3 August 20233 minute read

Dubai Introduces Progressive Planning Law to Foster Investment and Sustainable Growth

As reported in local media, the Emirate of Dubai recently published Dubai Law No. 16/2023 on Urban Planning in the Emirate of Dubai. This follows the launch of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan and represents a change in approach to urban planning in Dubai, whereby the Master Plan is given a statutory footing. Howard Bassford and Henry Jeffreys advised on the drafting of the new law with support from DLA Piper’s Middle East Real Estate team, led by Duncan Pickering. Howard and Henry offer their insights into the potential impacts of the law once it comes into force in October 2023.

The new law is significant in its application, covering both those areas already within Dubai Municipality’s jurisdiction and private development zones / free zones. Along with the placing of the Master Plan on a statutory footing, this demonstrates a clear intention to bring a consistency to urban planning in the Emirate, which should benefit developers and residents alike. This theme continues in the establishment of the Supreme Committee for Urban Planning and the confirmation of Dubai Municipality’s role as the primary authority responsible for urban planning in the Emirate.

From a policy and permitting perspective, the law establishes the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan as the primary plan for the Emirate. There are then subordinate framework plans, master plan permits and planning permits required to deliver development that complies with the 2040 plan. From a practical perspective, the law confirms that development work in the Emirate may only be carried out following the grant of a master plan permit, planning permit or general planning permit. It acknowledges that those permits may be conditional. Further guidelines and/or regulations can be expected, with environmental assessment being an area which is referred to but not yet legislated for in any detail.

From a governance perspective, Dubai Municipality is envisaged as the primary authority for urban planning, the environment and heritage, with other authorities required to consult with it to ensure compliance with the Master Plan. Dubai Municipality will also hold an enforcement role and will be accountable to the Supreme Committee for Urban Planning, with a sub-committee of the Supreme Committee responsible for dispute resolution. This represents a significant advancement, in recognising that planning decisions of Dubai Municipality may be susceptible to challenge.

While the new system introduced by the law will impose new requirements on developers and authorities, particularly during the transitional period, it has the potential to offer greater certainty to developers and investors through the introduction of a statutory plan, a consolidated planning authority and a dispute resolution mechanism.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the potential implications for your business of the incoming changes to the planning system in the Emirate, please contact Howard Bassford or Henry Jeffreys, Partner and Senior Associate in our Infrastructure and Development Planning team.