United Arab Emirates: Dubai issues Urban Planning Law to support sustainable development and urban growth

In brief

The Emirate of Dubai continues to strengthen its leading position as a top global business and tourist destination. As the development of visionary architecture and futuristic landscapes are aligned with ambitious sustainability targets, a new real estate law has been introduced to further support sustainable development and urban growth in Dubai.

With the issuance of Law No. 16 of 2023 on Urban Planning in the Emirate of Dubai ("Urban Planning Law"), new regulations are being introduced to establish a series of urban planning and construction standards. These standards are designed to ensure that Dubai's rapid real estate expansion remains in sync with sustainability principles, by way of preserving the natural environment whilst remaining under the control of the relevant authorities.


The key development in the Urban Planning Law is the appointment of a Supreme Committee to carry out the tasks and powers connected with urban planning works within Dubai. For the purposes of this new law, the Dubai Municipality will be solely responsible for regulating the strategic urban planning measures that reflect the economic, social, cultural and environmental goals and policies. The Urban Planning Law further sets out other authorities' compet urban planning and the introduction of an approved structural plan in Dubai, namely the "Dubai Urban Plan 2040".

The upcoming 28th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 28) to the UNFCCC in Dubai from 30 November 2023 to 12 December 2023 presents a critical opportunity for nations worldwide to collaboratively address climate change and develop effective strategies for mitigating its impacts. As a host and signatory to COP 28, the UAE is aware of its leading role in the global effort to combat climate change and promote environmental responsible development. The introduction of the Urban Planning Law positions the UAE as a proactive participant in the international pursuit towards a sustainable future and reinforces its commitment to climate-smart urban planning.

In more detail


The Urban Planning Law will apply to:

  • all regions of Dubai including Private Development Zones and Free Zones including the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC); and
  • all individuals and private and public entities that carry out development work in Dubai

Supreme Committee for Urban Planning

A Supreme Committee for Urban Planning will be formed which will be responsible for developing a general policy for urban planning, including its development goals within the framework of approved visions, goals and strategies.

The scope of the Supreme Committee's responsibilities will also include:

  • approving and supervising the implementation of the structural plan and monitoring the same after completion;
  • reviewing the results of measuring the strategic performance indicators for the implementation of the structural plan;
  • approving necessary recommendations with respect to urban planning documentation;
  • issuing the necessary directives and proposing policies and legislation that guarantee the achievement of targets set by the structural plan;
  • ensuring necessary coordination and complementarity of roles between the entities involved in process of urban planning and taking the necessary decisions regarding any issues or disputes if needed; and
  • forming sub-committees that will enable them to carry out the competencies entrusted to it under the Urban Planning Law.

Role of the Dubai Municipality

In addition to the authority being responsible for regulating the urban planning sector in Dubai, the Dubai Municipality will also conduct research, prepare annual reports that review the implementation of the urban documents, identify the challenges, problems and procedures necessary to address them, and submit them to the Supreme Committee to take the necessary action.

Competencies of the Concerned Entities and authorities concerned with the Private Development Zones and Free Zones

Any governmental entity that is determined by a decision of the Chairman of the Executive Council to implement the provisions of Urban Planning Law will be responsible for:

  • coordinating with the Dubai Municipality to prepare the structural plan and prepare the framework plans;
  • preparing and amending guides relating to the application of the Urban Planning Law; and
  • measuring performance indicators of the implementation of the Structural Plan and Framework Plan and providing the Dubai Municipality with results and data in order to follow up on the implementation of the same as well as updating the unified geospatial database.

The role of the Private Development Zones and Free Zones essentially consists of the following three tasks:

  • submitting applications for the issuance of a permit for the master plan to the Dubai Municipality to ensure it is in accordance with the Structural Plan and the Framework Plan;
  • issuing the master plan permit and the planning permit for the lands it supervises, in a manner that does not conflict with the Structural Plan and Framework Plan; and
  • providing the Dubai Municipality with all the data and information related to the master plan permit, the planning permit, and the building work permits issued by it and other requested data.

Relevance of the Structural Plan

The Structural Plan constitutes the comprehensive strategic document for the Urban Planning sector in Dubai, and the basis for preparing the Framework Plan, directing the process of preparing the guidelines and setting the basic principles for:

  • deciding on applications for the issuance of the master plan permits and the planning permits; and
  • issuing general planning permits.

The "Dubai Urban Plan 2040" approved on 13 March 2021 will be considered the approved Structural Plan for Dubai. As such, the decisions issued pursuant thereto, and the legislation in force in Dubai shall apply to the procedures and provisions of this plan.

It is anticipated that additional guidance will be issued by the Dubai Municipality in respect of the Urban Planning Law in due course.

To speak to us in relation to the new Urban Planning Law or any real estate or hospitality issues generally, please reach out to one of the Baker McKenzie contacts above.

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