Zoning describes the control by authority which designates legal areas in a municipality to permit and prohibit land uses. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land. It may also indicate the size and dimensions of land area as well as the form and scale of buildings. These guidelines are set in order to guide urban growth and development.
Areas of land are divided by appropriate authorities into zones within which various uses are permitted. Thus, zoning is a technique of land-use planning as a tool of urban planning used by local governments in most developed countries. The word is derived from the practice of designating mapped zones which regulate the use, form, design and compatibility of development. Legally, a zoning plan is usually enacted as a by-law with the respective procedures. In some countries, e. g. Canada (Ontario) or Germany, zoning plans must comply with upper-tier (regional, state, provincial) planning and policy statements.
There are a great variety of zoning types, some of which focus on regulating building form and the relation of buildings to the street with mixed-uses, known as form-based, others with separating land uses, known as use-based or a combination thereof.
Similar urban planning methods have dictated the use of various areas for particular purposes in many cities from ancient times.