Urban planner

Urban Planner
Names city planner, planner, town planner
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Real estate development
Urban planning
Civil engineering
Competencies Critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, communicating effectively, working with social, economic, cultural and environmental issues
Education required
see Urban planning education
Related jobs
Architect, Civil Engineer, Geographer, Historian/Preservationist, Landscape Architect, Quantity Surveyor, Urban Designer.

An urban planner or town planner is a professional who practices in the field of urban planning.


The responsibilities of an urban planner vary between jurisdictions, and sometimes within jurisdictions. The following is therefore a general description of the responsibilities of an urban planner, of which an urban planner may well typically practice two or more of. An urban planner may also specialize in one responsibility only.

Land use planning

Urban planners are predominantly concerned with the regulation of land use, development and subdivision, with the intent of achieving the desired urban planning outcome.

Regulation of land use and development is achieved via the drafting and adoption of planning instruments designed to influence the land use and built form goals of the jurisdiction. The planning instruments take the form of legislation and policy, and have a wide variety of terms across jurisdictions including acts and regulations, rules, codes, schemes, plans, policies, and manuals; and often a combination of some of these. The planning instruments often spatially zone land or reserve the land for certain purposes, presented in the form of a zoning map or plan. The urban planner is tasked with preparing planning instruments and zoning plans. Further, given urban development is rarely static and the goals of urban planning change from time to time, the urban planner will be responsible for continuously maintaining planning instruments and zoning plans to ensure they are kept up-to-date.

Consultation with the community and other stakeholders is generally desired by urban planners in most jurisdictions when planning instruments are prepared and updated. The level of consultation will vary depending on the project.

The urban planner will also be responsible for implementing the planning instruments. This is achieved through a permit process, where the proponent of a proposed development, a change in land use, or the proposed subdivision of an allotment will be required to obtain a permit, approval, licence, or consent for the proposed development or change of use. An urban planner will be tasked with considering the proposal and determining whether it complies with the intent and the specific provisions of the applicable planning instruments and zoning plans. Depending on the jurisdiction, the urban planner may have authority to determine the proposal; otherwise the planner will present a recommendation to the decision-maker, often a panel of non-planners (for example, the elected council of a local government).

While concerned with future development, an urban planner will occasionally be responsible for investigating development or land use which had been undertaken without authorisation. In many jurisdictions urban planners can require that unauthorised land use cease and unauthorised development is returned to its predevelopment condition; or alternatively retrospectively approve the unauthorised development or land use.

Strategic urban planning

In order to plan effectively for long term development and growth, an urban planner will be responsible for the preparation of a strategic plan (also known in different jurisdictions by names such as development plan, core strategy, comprehensive plan, planning strategy, structure plan, etc.). Strategic urban planning sets the high-level goals and growth principles for a jurisdiction, which will in turn inform the preparation and amendment of the legal planning instruments within that jurisdiction.

Regional planning

Regional planning deals with the planning of land use, infrastructure and settlement growth over a geographical area which extends to a whole city or beyond. In this sense, the urban planner's role is to consider urban planning at a macro scale. Regional planning is not concerned with planning at the local (neighborhood) level.

Heritage and conservation

An urban planner may be responsible for identifying, protecting and conserving / restoring buildings and places which are identified by a community as having cultural heritage significance. This may include the task of compiling and maintaining a heritage register, finding and making available incentives for encouraging conservation works, and the consideration of proposals to redevelop or use a heritage-listed place.

Urban renewal

As urban areas decline, an urban planner may be tasked with preparing a plan for the redevelopment of an urban area. Such plans are not limited to an individual development site, but rather encompass a locality or district over which an urban renewal (or redevelopment) plan is prepared.

Urban renewal often relies on obtaining funding from government sources to assist in the regeneration of an area; the funding may be used for a variety of purposes such as improvement of public roads, parks and other public spaces, development of infrastructure, and acquisition of land. The urban planner will be responsible for costing an urban renewal plan and obtaining funding for infrastructure works necessary to implement the urban renewal plan.

The urban planner for an urban renewal project will need to liaise closely with stakeholders during the preparation and implementation of the plan, including government agencies, landowners and community groups.


A masterplan will be prepared for many greenfield development projects. The purpose of a masterplan is to plan for the ultimate spatial layout of the land uses for a future develompent area. A masterplan will consider the required infrastructure to service the development and determine the need and location of urban amenities including commercial and industrial land, community facilities, schools, parks, public transport, major roads, and land uses, both within and outside the masterplan area, and consider the staging of development of a masterplanned area.

The urban planner will be responsible for coordinating the various professional consultant inputs, and to lay out the masterplan infrastructure and land uses. It will often be necessary for the urban planner to consult with landowners and government agencies affected by the masterplan.

Transportation planning

An urban planner may be responsible for planning for transport facilities and infrastructure in urban and inter-regional areas.

Economic development

An urban planner's responsibility may extend to economic development. In this sense, an urban planner may be responsible for identifying opportunities for economic growth, and encourage investment in an area.

Environmental planning

An urban planner may be concerned with the impact of land use, development and subdivision on the natural environment including land, water, flora, and fauna, to achieve sustainable outcomes.

Urban design

An urban planner will consider the design of public spaces (streets, squares, parks, etc.) and the relationship between built form and public spaces.

Infrastructure planning

An urban planner may be required to plan for the future provision of public works infrastructure such as water supply, sewerage, electricity, telecommunications, and transport infrastructure, and community infrastructure including schools, hospitals and parks.

Education and training

See Urban planning education for a discussion of this topic.

Urban Planning as profession is a relatively young discipline. Few government agencies restrict or license the profession. As a result, a number of other related disciplines actively claim to have the training, expertise and professional scope to practice urban planning. The field is open to almost anyone with an aptitude for the basic principles of urbanism. While organizations such as the American Planning Association, the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Royal Town Planning Institute certify professional planners, others in related fields like Landscape Architecture also claim to have professional autonomy in urban planning. Efforts internationally have attempted to define the role of urban planners through licensure acts. The State of New Jersey licenses Professional Planners. The Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Alberta protect the title of Registered Professional Planner to only those who have an accredited CIP education and experience or equivalent.

Urban planners by nation


Urban planners in Canada usually hold bachelor's degrees in planning or a master's degree, typically accredited as an M.Pl, MUP (Master of Urban Planning) MCP (Master of City Planning), MScPl, MES (Master of Environmental Studies) or simply an MA.


Urban planners in Greece typically graduate from Engineering faculties. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and University of Thessaly are the two universities that provide undergraduate studies in urban planning in Greece.


Though planning is not a recognized profession under Indian law, the profession began in 1941 with the School of Planning and Architecture as a Department of Architecture of Delhi College of Engineering now the Delhi Technological University. It was later integrated with the School of Town and Country Planning which was established in 1955 by the Government of India to provide facilities for rural, urban and regional planning. On integration, the school was renamed as School of Planning and Architecture in 1959. Today, it is one of the premier schools of pursuing planning studies at bachelor, masters and post doctorate levels.

The Institute of Town Planners, India (ITPI), set up on the lines of the Royal Town Planning Institute in London is the body representing planning professionals in India. A small group formed itself into an Indian Board of Town Planners which after three years of continuous work formed the ITPI. The institute, which was established in July 1951, today, has a membership of over 2800, apart from a sizable number of student members, many of whom have qualified Associateship Examination (AITP) conducted by ITPI. As of 2012, the institute has 21 regional chapters across India. School of Planning and Architecture-Bhopal (M.P.)[1] and School of Planning and Architecture-Vijayawada established in year 2008 by Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Centre for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) University in Ahmedabad and Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (N.I.T) in Bhopal are one of the pioneering Institutes in India where urban planning is taught.


The Israel Planners Association was founded in 1965. Urban planning is taught by the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning in Haifa and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies.


Urban planners in Mexico typically graduate from an Architecture background provided by major universities in the country. Most of such degrees can be awarded at Masters' graduate studies, although there are also bachelor's degrees available.

New Zealand

A professional postgraduate Masters in Planning degree from an institution accredited by the New Zealand Planning Institute is required to become a professional planner. The University of Auckland has a good reputation for their Planning programs. Graduates are employed by many planning and planning-related agencies in the public and the private sectors, including district and regional councils, urban development, regional health authorities, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment, and urban design consultancies. New Zealand planners are recognized internationally with many working abroad in developed and developing countries.

South Africa

The South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN) is the statutory Council of nominated members appointed in terms of the Planning Profession Act, 2002 (Act 36 of 2002) by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform (Department of Rural Development and Land Reform) to regulate the Planning Profession(Planning is both the organisational process of creating and maintaining a plan) in terms of the Act. The Planning Profession Principles applies to all registered planners. The SACPLAN through the Act assures quality in the planning profession through the identification of planning profession work that only registered planners can undertake. The functions of the SACPLAN are contained in Section 7 of the Act. The powers and duties of the SACPLAN are contained in Section 8 of the Act. The Act further prescribes a Professional Code of Conduct for registered planners [2]

United Kingdom

Those wishing to be a town or country planner, in the United Kingdom, first must complete a degree in a relevant discipline and then complete a final year in the form of a masters in town and country planning which must be accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), or a four-year degree encapsulating all aspects. they can then become eligible to be a member of the RTPI, but must first complete two years work based training, to be a full member.

Town planners in the UK are responsible for all aspects of the built environment, wherever you are within the UK a town and country planner will have at sometime planned the built aspects of the environment. They (Local Planning Authorities) grant planning permission (consent) to individuals, private builders and corporations and also aid local government with their decisions.

United States

Planners in the U.S. typically complete an undergraduate or graduate degree from a University offering the program of study. Professional certification is only offered through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a branch of the American Planning Association. To gain AICP certification, a planner must meet specific educational and experience requirements, as well as pass an exam covering the nature and practice of the discipline. Although AICP certification is not required to be a practicing planner, it does serve as a means in which a planner can verify his or her professional expertise.

See also


  1. http://www.spabhopal.ac.in/
  2. Administrator. "SACPLAN - SACPLAN". sacplan.org.za.
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