Article | Urban planning and wildfires in Chile: National legislative framework

By: Constanza González Mathiesen

Published on August 8, 2022

This publication describes the general margins of urban planning and construction legislation in Chile, and how it is applied within the country’s territories. Legislation and urban planning are mainly developed through a prescriptive system that focuses on the physical aspects of planning. Spatial planning and building in Chile functions within a national legislative framework that approaches spatial planning, urbanisation, and construction in an integrated manner, through national framing instruments based on three levels of action: 

·         Ley General de Urbanismo y Construcciones[1] (LGUC) (1976).

National legal framework of planning and building, which contains the norms that regulate the actions of planning, urbanisation and construction, emphasising on urban areas. It focuses on three levels of spatial planning: national, intercommunal and communal (art. 28). Its approach to disaster risk management (DRM) is limited, with no explicit reference to wildfires (see table 1 below).

·         Ordenanza General de Urbanismo y Construcciones[2] (OGUC) (1992) National regulatory provisions for the law LGUC, which regulates the administrative procedures, spatial planning, urbanisation and construction processes, and standards of design and construction required. Its approach to DRM is limited, with no explicit reference to bushfires (see table 2 below)

·         Technical Standards

Contain and define the technical characteristics of projects, materials, and systems of construction and urbanisation. Compliance with the standards is required by the OGUC. Several standards address fire prevention in buildings from the perspective of urban structural fires; including norms for fire behaviour, resistance and combat; fuel loads; signalling; and sprinklers.

Other relevant framing instruments play important subsidiary roles in urban planning for wildfire DRM, including: 

·         Ley Orgánica Constitucional sobre Gobierno y Administración Regional[3] (1992). Establishes a parallel framework for regional spatial planning policy and investment. It establishes the roles and responsibilities of regional governments. It does not refer to wildfires or DRM.

Table 1: Summary of the main articles of the LGUC that relate to DRM

Ley General de Urbanismo y Construcciones (LGUC)

ArticleContentDRM reference
Art. 28 deciesEstablishes the purpose of urban planning as a public function whose objective is to organise and define land use and other urban regulations in accordance with the common interest.Indicates that planning must be consistent with technical studies about ‘natural’ risks, among others.
Art. 35Indicates the elements that a Plan Regulador Intercomunal[4] (PRI) must include – such as maps of general zoning and road network.No reference to DRM.
Art. 42Indicates the elements that a Plan Regulador Comunal[5] (PRC) must include – such as a study of sanitary coverage feasibility and maps that specify land use zoning and road network.No reference to DRM.
Art. 60Indicates that the regulatory plan will identify the areas not suitable for development due to their special nature and location. No reference to DRM.
Art. 105Indicates that the design of the urbanisation and building must comply with the standards established by the General Ordinance in relation to the listed elements.Standard topics include design standards for risks associated with several hazards; wildfires are not included in the list.
Art. 116Established that a permit is required for the construction, reconstruction, repair, alteration, expansion, and demolition of buildings and urbanisation works of any nature – urban or rural. It requires considering risk areas for the permit.

Table 2: Summary of the main articles of the OGUC that relate to DRM

Ordenanza General de Urbanismo y Construcciones (OGUC)

ArticleContentDRM reference
Art. 2.1.7Establishes the role of the intercomunnal planning (PRI or PRM) and their scope of action. Indicates that risk areas or non-buildable areas can be defined at the intercomunnal scale (PRI or PRM). It also indicates that, through more detailed studies, PRCs may further specify or decrease risk areas
Art 2.1.10Lists the components of a PRC and lists the planning norms they must determine.Indicates that the plan should be grounded on risk assessments (among others) and that regulations associated with risk areas should be determined.
Art. 2.1.17Frames regulatory plans’ inclusion of areas where development is restricted due to hazards by defining: (a) ‘non-buildable areas’, understood as those that due to their special nature and location are not susceptible to building (only the location of transitory activities will be accepted); or (b) ‘risk areas’ where, for safety reasons, certain types of buildings are limited or required to incorporate engineering or other works to correct or mitigate the risk.
Requires that permit applications in ‘risk areas’ are accompanied by a well-founded study prepared by a professional specialist and approved by the competent agency, to determine the risk treatment actions to be carried out.
Indicates that risk areas or non-buildable areas can be defined at the communal scale.
Risk areas should be determined based on the following hazards: flooding, tsunami, landslides, volcanic activity and geological fault, and risk generated by human activity or intervention.
Wildfires are not specifically mentioned.

Art. 2.1.18Indicates that regulatory plans must define protected areas of rural or heritage value. No reference to risk perse.

[1] General Law of Urban Planning and Constructions

[2] General Ordinance of Urban Planning and Constructions

[3] Organic Constitutional Law on Regional Government and Administration

[4] Intercommunal Regulatory Plan

[5] Communal Regulatory Plan

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