URP students gain insight from experiences shared by town planners

By Aina Mardhia Ismail

GOMBAK, 18 November 2020: Students of Urban and Regional Planning (URP), Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design (KAED) had a good exposure learning from the experiences shared by town planners from two different local authorities in Malaysia.

A webinar-cum-online input lecture on “Development control and development plans” held recently was attended by Head of Planning and Landscape Department, Muar Municipal Council TPr. Siti Rukiah Abd Shukor, and Assistant Director of Town Planning Department, Subang Jaya Municipal Council.

The two speakers who are URP alumni from KAED have been invited to share their experiences as town planners at the different two local authorities.

The day-to-day basis of a town planner at a local authority deals with a number of urban planning matters, two of which are development plans and development control.

For some context, the urban and rural areas in Malaysia undergo town planning processes carried out by qualified town planners.

Hence, the webinar lecture provided useful insights for students to learn more about town planning.

Development plans and development control: Scope of work

TPr. Rukiah mentioned that she deals with development plans on a daily basis as a town planner in Muar, Johor which shows how important the plan is for town planning in Malaysia.

She highlighted the development plan has to be replaced once it reaches the end of the planning period. The previous development plan was obsolete and needs for a new development plan in responding to recent urban challenges in the area.

The council is currently undergoing publicity or public participation programme for Local Plan Muar (Replacement) 2030 to replace the Local Plan Muar 2002 – 2015 as it reaches the end of the planning period.

“There are two types of development plan dealt by town planners at local authority level that is the local plan and special area plan,” added TPr. Rukiah.

As a town planner in Subang Jaya Municipal Council, TPr. Hasniza said that town planners in the council are assigned small planning blocks to manage. They manage and process planning permission (kebenaran merancang) for planning approval in the area.

“The planning permission application will be submitted by the applicant to the One Stop Centre (OSC) department for reviewing before it reaches the Town Planning department. Every application is then considered for approval or refusal.”

TPr. Hasniza emphasised that the process of development control is rather complex compared to the development plan. “It is more complex due to its technical requirement,” said TPr. Hasniza.

Coordination among agencies for development plans and development control

TPr. Hasniza stressed the idea of development plans is not just referred by the local authority, but all technical agencies of the district. She clarified that almost 14 department and technical agencies were involved in the consultation and reference for a development plan of all levels according to the planning level either federal, state or local.

On the other hand, planning control at local authority is no different. Planning control engages with the internal and external department. TPr. Hasniza mentioned there are about 24 departments in Subang Jaya Municipal Council and those participating in planning control are, for instance, Department of Development, Environment, Landscape, Commissioner of Building and Licensing.

The external department, for example, PlanMalaysia, Land offices, Department of Irrigation & Drainage are consulted for feedbacks from their jurisdiction power.

TPr. Hasniza also shared that these external committees attended the OSC meeting as a committee. The approval given on any planning permission submitted to the council is not because of the Yang DiPertua (YDP) of the council, but it comes about as a consensus from the meeting chaired.

Challenges as a town planner serving at local authority

Towards the end of the webinar, the moderator asked the panelists to share the challenges they faced as students graduating from IIUM were exposed to the syllabus carried out in English, in contrast with the practice of Town Planning in Malaysia where most are conducted in Malay.

In response, TPr. Hasniza told the students that it is an opportunity rather a barrier. She stated that the ability to master town planning in both Malay and English helps her in communicating with non-Malay clients.

She added that rather than language input, she struggled more in adapting with the workload of town planning in the council for her first appointment as a town planner at the Enforcement Department. She further said that she realised town planning is more than just a development plan and planning control which are the few town planning scopes focused during degree years.

“Everything I learned in my four years of degree has helped me a lot theoretically,” TPr. Rukiah said. She shared that the quote “jack of all trades, master of none” is prevalent in her, it is crucial for her as a town planner to know everything.

Agreeing with her statement, TPr. Hasniza stated that it is significant for town planners to equip oneself with knowledge from all sorts, not limiting to town planning. Additionally, she advised the students to just be yourself, master the art of good public relations skills and build good contact, networkings and connections in this line of work.

Both the planners also shared their tips and tricks with the students on how to do layout plan from the real-life practices.

The online webinar was moderated by Assoc. Prof. TPr. Dr. M. Zainora Asmawi as an input lecture streamed live via Google Meet attended by Urban and Regional Planning (URP) students, KAED.


A development plan consists of a map and written statement supported by guidelines that explain in detailed of all local authority proposals for development and land use by translating and detailing the strategic policy of Strategic Plan under the provisions of section 12-16A, Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172). (Source: Local Plan Manual by Plan Malaysia, 2013)

  1. Local plan
  2. Special area plan

A development plan provided for areas of particular interest to a local authority in a short time for the purpose of implementation either to develop, re-develop, beautify or preserve or for management purposes of an area as stipulated in Section 16B, Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172). (Source: Local Plan Manual by Plan Malaysia, 2013)***

(This news item is a contribution by Aina Mardhia Ismail, a fourth-year student of Urban and Regional Planning, KAED)

Aina Mardhia Ismail

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