The paper addresses illegal building and development activity, a phenomenon that substantially impacts the urban and regional system and influences land use and consumption. The paper begins by briefly describing the types and different meanings of informal settlements throughout the world, as well as in Italy. To explain what illegal building means in Italy, it is necessary to illustrate the country’s urban planning system, its regulations and the three laws that introduced building amnesty. The origins and causes of illegal building and urban planning practices are pointed out and precisely described. National data with particular focus on the Campania region illustrates the magnitude of the phenomenon. In fact, the largest part of illegal building volumes can be found in Southern Italian regions characterized by administrative inefficiency. The study concludes with some ideas on how to approach urban planning in territories marked by the presence of illegal development, whether compact or sprawled.
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