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What is urban law?

Urban planning has always been a fundamental function of the State as the primary organization in the history of human civilization,

What is urban law?

This concept refers to the need to continue the development of settlements or cities but in an orderly manner and in compliance with rules that have obviously changed from period to period, but that ultimately tend to respond to the state of the art on the subject, guaranteeing principles such as the public and ecological function of property, the prevalence of the general interest, the equitable distribution of burdens and benefits, among others.

Urban development law in Colombia

In Colombia we have not been the exception to this general rule, and in modern times, namely since the issuance of Law 388 of 1997, we have a system that works in general terms as follows:
1. Territorial planning is carried out at the municipal level, seeking to guarantee the aforementioned principles; likewise, this system intends to carry out the exercise from a close and popularly or democratically elected body, with technical components from the substantive and procedural aspects.
2. The most general and important instrument to achieve these objectives is called POT (Plan de ordenamiento territorial), PBOT (Plan Básico de Ordenamiento Territorial) or EOT (Esquema de Ordenamiento Territorial), names that vary depending on the number of inhabitants of each municipality.
3. These plans are long term and establish in a general manner, land uses, densities, load and benefit schemes, among a great number of other relevant and necessary issues for land use planning.
4. However, it should be clarified that these schemes alone cannot develop the territories, since they are too general, which is why other more specific instruments, known as partial plans or even urban development licenses in their various typologies, are required to achieve this final objective.
5. Urban planning licenses are the last link in the chain of land use planning, but probably the most important of all, since they are the ones that materialize the highest hierarchical norms, granting specific rights and obligations to builders and developers of the territory.
6. Based on the above, it is clear that any real estate development project must take into account each of the above mentioned rules, from the most general to the most specific, hence the importance of developing these projects from a multi and interdisciplinary perspective, with the presence of lawyers who are experts in urban planning law and who know the specific rules of the municipality that will receive the development.
7. The public entities related to this system are: mayors’ offices, municipal councils, planning secretariats and, where they exist, curator’s offices.

Legal system

However, as is usually the case with the entire legal system, the application of all these provisions has been modified in various ways. Today, for example, we cannot speak of the full validity of Law 388, given that there are a great variety of regulatory decrees that complement and modify it.
At the same time, the practical application of the law has been very complex and where order should reign, chaos and lack of control or updating have sometimes flourished, a matter that is much more true in the rural sectors of the country.


In conclusion, I would like to insist on the relevance of urban planning for the proper development of our country, as well as on the fact that any planning or execution exercise of this nature merits the participation of professionals from various specialties to ensure financial and technical feasibility for all parties involved.
It is very important that you rely on lawyers specialized in real estate law to carry out any construction, licensing or permit procedure, since the law is very strict on this subject.
Author: Santiago Pinzón Sosa

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