Town Planning: Why It Matters

Town Planning


Why plan?

Planning is important in order for any activity or project to succeed. It is the foundation of any plan for development. It sets out the objective of the activity or project and a clear path to achieve this objective. Town planning, or more commonly known as urban planning has become increasingly important as we battle issues such as pollution, overpopulation and poor health conditions. With this type of proactive planning, we can prevent these issues and promote a better quality of life for all.  

About town planning

What is town planning? Simply put, according to the Collins English Dictionary, town planning is the “planning and design of new buildings, roads and parks in a place in order to make them attractive and convenient for the people who live there.” Essentially, it is all about handling land. Planners have the task of balancing the needs of property developers, the community and the policy framework. 

Town Planning

History of town planning

Town planning dates back to the 5th century BC, when Hippodamus, the Greek philosopher, was named the first town planner and was also called the “father of city planning” by Aristotle. Bringing it back locally, Malaysia’s town planning history began with the formation of the committee of assessors in Penang in 1801. In 1921, the first town planning office was opened with Charles Reade being the first Government Town Planner. After 1957, the Town Planning Department was known as JPBK and later changed to JPBD. In 1976, the Town and Country Planning Act, Act172, was established. Then in 2017, the name JPBD changed to PLANMalaysia.

Town planning principles

The study of town planning is usually done in association with a few principles:

  1. The first is zoning where the area is broken up into zones such as the commercial zone, industrial zone and residential zone. Each zone has its own rules. 
  2. The second is the “green belt” where there is no development and is usually on the perimeter of the area. In this way, this area is usually designed to protect wildlife and its habitat.
  3. The third principle is housing which has to be skillfully designed with consideration for the population. The idea is to prevent the development of slums and squatters. The plan should allocate single housing, mid-rise as well as high-rise buildings. Buildings that are public should be built without making the area congested, allowing for ample parking and roads. Recreational centres are equally important for the community to allow residents to have space to walk, cycle, etc. 
  4. Finally, ensuring proper development of road and transportation systems is essential in any area for the ease of residents in moving from one place to another.

Town planning in Malaysia

According to, PLANMalaysia, the country’s Department of Town and Country Planning was established with the mission of becoming the leader in town and country planning towards building quality, sustainable, and flourishing living environment by 2030. 

Its mission is to spur national physical planning through the implementation and monitoring of comprehensive, systematic and innovative development planning for the well-being of society.   

Also, as stated on the same website, its objectives include strengthening the physical, social and economic development system in urban and rural areas to uplift the quality of life in accordance with the nation’s objectives. Along with this, it also plans, controls and coordinates development, land use and land conservation according to the Town and Country Planning Act (Act172) among other acts. The functions of PLANMalaysia are threefold; at a federal, state and national level. In each of these levels, it ensures the ideal use, development and conservation of land. 

Town planning and its importance

For the importance of town planning, there are many aspects to be considered. From a sustainability standpoint, town planning serves to maintain natural diversity while meeting the needs of people. In short, natural ecosystems could be protected in the development plan that is to be implemented. 

On another note, town planning is important because it aids in the systematic development of a town. As mentioned before, one needs to consider the needs of the residents, their security and health, the infrastructure and emergency procedures. Town planning also aids in the resiliency of the area itself. Proper planning is ideal to protect the area from natural and man-made disasters.

Purpose of town planning

So what are some of the other purposes of town planning? 

  • To maintain a balanced use of land
  • To maintain a conducive environment for the people
  • To strive to make the location attractive in terms of culture, finance, commerce and entertainment
  • To provide a suitable transportation system
  • To instil pride and dignity in the residents
  • To utilize resources in a responsible manner as well as to provide medical and educational facilities among other things.

A well-planned urban or rural area will give rise to healthy living conditions for residents to work, live, and unwind. It will also provide convenience to the residents in terms of their social, economic, cultural and recreational activities. Of course, one cannot forget preserving the beauty of a place, its individuality and historical or cultural significance while emphasizing its aesthetic value. 

What happens without town planning?

When there is no town planning, many undesirable circumstances may arise. Examples include:

  • Lack of proper road systems which may cause narrowing of lanes
  • The presence of slums
  • Not enough space for parks and open spaces which may lead to unhealthy lives
  • Inadequate water and electricity supply
  • Uncontrolled development
  • Unnecessary congestion
  • Noise pollution 
  • The unsuitable location of facilities such as schools, clinics, etc.  

What is a town planner?

Town Planning

In essence, a town planner makes decisions on the use of land and buildings. He or she may work with specific communities or companies as well as politicians. Perhaps the main objective of a planner is to ensure the land is used sustainably – this means striking a balance between environmental, social and economic factors. His or her main role is to plan how and where buildings are built and the purpose behind them. 

Town planners are known by many names. They are sometimes called city planners, land use planners, urban designers, etc. Their responsibilities entail:

  • ensuring accessibility of facilities such as schools or hospitals to residents
  • designing lands
  • abiding by the development laws of the country
  • preserving the historical, environmental and architectural value of the location
  • collaborating with architects and residents

Other than that, town planners select data and analyse it from the consensus of the community and market research while also exploring the different factors that affect the development of the community. This includes examining proposed plans to see if they can be carried out and presenting them to all relevant parties. 

If you have the desire to become a town planner in Malaysia, you are likely to have a rewarding career! Just imagine, you can play a part in the most important aspect of living – one’s environment! You may work with the public as well as private organizations or may be self-employed or even a volunteer. There are several steps to follow in pursuing this career in Malaysia. Briefly, the steps depend on what category you wish to attain. Basically, in the Graduate category, you would need a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree recognised by the Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP). 

At this point, it is necessary to point out the skills that go along with being a successful town planner. They include being technologically savvy, and the ability to use geographic information systems (GIS) for analyzing statistics, database applications and programs for coming up with presentations. Strong communication skills are also essential. 


Nevertheless, it is fair to say that there is more to town planning than meets the eye. It’s not just about whether it is better to stay in a town, a city or in rural areas; it is a mindset as a whole. With the information above, we believe you will be well-informed in making a decision on where to live depending on how the land is planned, designed and built. 

Hence, you will be on your way to a better living environment, a better quality of life, and subsequently, a happier and more fulfilling life as well. The next time you plan to move, consider factors such as cost, accessibility, “green” elements, infrastructure and overall beauty of the area. These will help you make the best decision on where to live and how to live!

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