Architecture, Planning & Housing

What do Planners do?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the profession of Town and Regional Planning and its role in the Built Environment.  Town and Regional Planning is a professional activity that integral to urban and regional development, and land use management.  It facilitates the work undertaken by other professionals such as engineers, architects, project managers and developers.  A Town and Regional Planners are trained to consider the public good e.g. it is a people centred profession.

Planners link knowledge, skills, competences and action in ways that improve public and private development decisions which affect people, places and the environment.  To do this, planners must have knowledge and experience in a wide range of topics.  As a planner, you may:-

  • Recommend policy and guidelines on land use, environmental conservation, housing, and transportation;
  • Undertake research and prepare reports on demographic, economic, cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • Review proposals for development to ensure that they follow regulations and generally accepted planning practice;
  • Prepare plans for developing private lands, providing public spaces and services and maintaining and improving the environment;
  • Answer questions from the public on planning policies and procedures;
  • Speak before public meetings or formal hearings; and,
  • Consult with landowners, interest groups and citizens.

Planning jobs can vary widely, and can have many differing job titles, such as:-

 Academic planner City planner Community development officer Conflict resolution mediator/negotiator Economic development officer Environmental planner Geographic information system planner Heritage coordinator Housing analyst Industrial planner Land use planner  Municipal planner Planning director Planning consultant Policy analyst Recreation and park planner Regional planner Resource development officer Social planner Strategic planner Transportation planner, and Urban designer

The Challenge of Planning

Planning is an activity that has an important role to play in delivering and safeguarding many of the aspirations that developed and developing societies hold dear – environmental sustainability, social equity, cultural diversity and economic prosperity. It needs committed, talented and creative individuals to help deliver its evolving agenda, working across the private, public and voluntary sectors. [1]

Current Challenges

Current challenges faced by planning graduates include:-

  • The deterioration of global and local environments;
  • The regeneration of under – utilised urban and rural assets;
  • The opportunities and threats posed by globalisation and new technologies;
  • Changing living patterns and redistributing populations;
  • The delivery of high quality public, private environments and services; and,
  • A rapidly urbanizing South Africa.

Planning generates creative proposals for change, by means of negotiation and advocacy within a complex web of competing interests. Positive action is at the heart of planning, and it operates within a wide context of environmental, social, economic, legal and governance constraints.

As an academic discipline, planning is the study of the way societies plan, design, manage and regulate change in the built and natural environment. It therefore includes the study of why and how (and with what consequences) societies intervene, shape, organise and change natural and built environments, in order to secure an agreed range of social, economic and environmental objectives.

The academic core of the discipline is the study of the rationale for planning and how it is practised.  This necessarily involves understanding not only the processes of spatial change in the built and natural environments, but also studying the arguments for intervening in these processes. It requires an understanding of the operation and outcomes of land, property and development markets from a variety of perspectives, including the economic, financial and legal aspects. It also requires an understanding of design, and the development of sustainable built and natural environments.

[1]           Because of its diversity planning has been referred to by a variety of terms (including ‘spatial planning’, ‘land-use planning’, ‘town and country planning’, ‘town planning’, city and regional planning’, ‘urban planning’, and so on). In this statement, ‘planning’ is used as a generic title, and ‘planners’ as a general term to include all those involved in planning as an activity, whether professional, statutory or otherwise.