Planning Programme

Understanding Urban and Regional Development Planning

Urban and Regional Planning is a unique field to explore, study and work in. As a profession, it has evolved significantly and today plays a crucial role in developing and implementing policies, plans, programmes and projects designed to improve people’s lives.

Planners are trained in all aspects of development in order to understand the many things that inform where people live, work and play and how the various issues that impact on our cities and towns are inter-related.

Given the range and importance of issues that impact on development, Planning offers an interesting and particularly relevant career to those concerned with innovative ways in which we can manage change in our cities and regions.

Planning today

In the past, Planning was an activity concerned with controlling the use of land and the nature of development. Planners now embrace a future-oriented approach and are crucial players in the broader development and management of human settlements.

Urban and Regional Planning is an exciting and multi-faceted career that covers a wide range of issues, yet has a distinct spatial focus. It is concerned with broad issues such as government policies on housing and the environment and also considers the physical development of existing and new areas. Planners are concerned with the social, economic, environmental and political aspects of development and need to fully understand the physical consequences of their decisions.

Urban and rural development

Cities like Durban and Johannesburg present challenges similar to any urban center in developing countries. People live in shacks in informal settlements close to luxurious suburbs while informal traders sell vegetables near large shopping malls. Municipalities have to provide essential services – water and electricity – to everybody while encouraging economic investment and promoting job creation. Beyond our cities, poor people need land and assistance to make a living.

It is thus apparent that issues concerning development in both urban and rural areas need to be dealt with comprehensively. The Planning profession attempts to respond to these challenges in creative and meaningful ways.

Relevance in the South African context

Planning holds an important place in the current era of reconstruction in South Africa. There are severe backlogs in housing and urban services provision that need to be addressed in an integrated way. In addition, Planning projects must facilitate both the redressing of race, class and gender inequalities and the empowerment of communities.

The dismantling of apartheid in 1994 and the birth of our new democracy presented new challenges that demanded innovative, informed and meaningful responses from the local Planning fraternity. Today, the discipline finds itself at an incredibly exciting point for both student and practitioner in South Africa as new policies, plans and approaches to Planning are developed and implemented.


Three Masters by course-work programmes are housed in the planning programme. Each has a somewhat different emphasis. The main Masters by course-work programme we run is the Master in Town and Regional Planning Programme (MTRP). The main focus of the MTRP is to educate generalist town and regional planners, who are capable of working both at the level of physical planning and more broadly in planning aimed at the integrated development of human settlements. The MTRP degree leads to professional registration with the South African Planning Council.

The Master in Urban and Regional Planning (Development Planning) responds to the broadening of traditional forms of planning to include both a stronger economic development emphasis, and a greater focus on the co-ordination of planning undertaken by different agencies, government departments and local councils. In contrast to the MTRP, students do not take courses in local level physical planning, but instead take more courses in development issues and economic development. This course is run jointly with the School of Development Studies.

The Master of Ur ban and Regional Planning (Environment and Planning) is aimed at students who wish to focus on physical planning and land development processes, with a stronger emphasis on environmental issues. In contrast to the MTRP and Development Planning courses, this course has much less of an emphasis on economic and development issues, and is instead oriented towards the local level, and to physical planning and environmental processes. This course is run jointly with the School of Environmental and Life Sciences.
Detailed information about the programmes can be found by following the links below:-