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Guest editorial: comparative research at the frontier of planning law: The case of compensation rights for land use regulations

Rachelle Alterman (Center for Urban and Regional Studies, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel)

International Journal of Law in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1756-1450

Article publication date: 12 July 2011




This paper aims to present the merits of cross‐national comparative research as a method for pushing the frontier of knowledge about planning laws. Since in every country there is usually some dissatisfaction with its present planning laws or certain aspects of them, cross‐national research can open an arena of alternatives based on real‐life experiences. To demonstrate this argument the paper focuses on a shared dilemma – how should the law handle the negative effects of some planning decisions on land values. This case is used to demonstrate both the comparative method and the usefulness of comparative findings. The conclusions point out the opportunities for cross‐learning.


The overall argument about the comparative research draws on the author's extensive experience in conducting cross‐national research on a variety of issues in planning laws. The research on compensation rights reported here draws on the author's recent book which analyses the laws and practices in 13 countries. To ensure a “common platform” for comparison, the author developed a method based on a set of factual scenarios and a shared framework of topics. A team of country‐based researchers conducted the legal analysis, and the team leader conducted the comparative analysis.


The 13‐country analysis shows that there is a great variety of approaches to compensation rights around the world and a broad range of degrees, from no compensation at all to extensive compensation rights. There is no “consensual approach”. The search for similarities based on region in the world, legal family, cultural background, density or demography, shows that the differences cannot be “explained” on the basis of these variables. The degree of political controversy on this issue also varies greatly. The breadth of laws and practices offer a range of alternative models to enrich local debates.

Research limitations/implications

Any comparative research on a new topic is bound to be exploratory. There are not yet any established theories in planning law (or in comparative research) from which hypotheses can be derived and tested. However, the large sample of countries, covering 40 per cent of the OECD countries (at the time), and the careful shared method have likely produced reliable findings.


Most of the comparative research that the author has conducted over the years charted new grounds in both its topics and its comparative breadth. The paper reports in brief on cross‐national comparative research on compensation rights. The full research, on which this paper draws (published as a book in 2010), is the first to look at this specific issue globally with a large 13‐country sample of OECD countries.



Alterman, R. (2011), "Guest editorial: comparative research at the frontier of planning law: The case of compensation rights for land use regulations", International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 100-112.



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