Government Aims in Planning Decision Making


Planning plays an essential role in decision making procedures that are carried out by governments. It is crucial in managing the relationships prevailing between systems of human nature and systems existing naturally by focusing on several aspects. Some of the crucial aspects in focus include environmental issues, culture, needs of different communities, economy, and legal aspects. Because of the inter relationship among these various aspects and many more, there is no agreed definition of urban planning. However, Princeton University (2010) defines urban planning as an architectural organ which is concerned with designing and organizing urban areas by facilitating future planning in order to achieve good arrangement in urban areas. Implementation of planning is an essential process of improving the environment in all parts of the world. The process deals with both existing and potential issues affecting urban areas and their surroundings. This essay focuses on the main objectives governments want to achieve by implementing planning and the various issues and interests that must be considered by governments in planning decision-making. These are demonstrated by several Australian and overseas examples.

What Governments Seek to do through Planning

Planning could be explained as an instrument used by governments to achieve several purposes. This can be seen from section five of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 which includes three main objectives. This section of the Act explains what the government actually seeks by implementing the planning. The first thing the government intends to achieve is to promote the social and economic welfare of the community besides the environment by enhancing natural resources such as land, forests water and artificial resources. The second objective the government seeks to achieve is provision and regulation of utilities, services and facilities according to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act of 1979. For example, distribution of schools, hospitals, parks and playground areas and creating standards for regulating them in various scales demonstrates the role played by the regulation of development through planning laws. In addition, the regulation of housing to ensure provision of various and sufficient numbers of dwellings for expected population is part of these purposes. Planning is therefore expected to regulate dwellings to conform to population characteristics and demographic information including income, family sizes and living preferences. In section 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act of 1979, for instance, providing and maintaining affordable housing in New South Wales (NSW) is part of the Act’s objectives.

Environmental planning is part of the aspects covered by planning laws including the responsibilities not just of the different levels of government but also the public responsibility (EP&A Act 1979). The management of development can be reported not just as an important objective of government, but also a fundamental process in planning systems. In other words, by planning systems governments look forward to creating and improving development plans in order to regulate future development and land uses besides guiding the potential changes (The Scottish Government, 2011). Queensland Government, for example, has implemented planning in order to improve management and development across the state (Department of Local Government and Planning, 2011). In addition, regulating and controlling land uses and property rights is also part of the purposes of planning. According to Whitehouse (1993) the regulation of both land uses and developments is part of the main roles of planning systems hence by planning, governments seek to reach integrated plans in achieving its various objectives.

Issues to be Considered in Planning Decision Making

There are several issues that should be considered before planning decision-making. Changes in population and communities’ characteristics are among the issues to be considered. Governments actually rely on many essential elements including census in order to estimate the changes in population and demographic characteristics to be expected in the future. For example, In Riyadh which is the capital city of Saudi Arabia, the government estimated that the proportion of the youth in 2010 was more than 60 per cent. This implied the need for more facilities and improvement in infrastructure in aspects relating to youth residents (High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh, 2010). Thus, it can be seen that observing communities’ characteristics seems to be effective and significant in planning decision-making. Moreover, economic issues could be considered as another essential part of these issues. Business activities changing in various markets and sub-markets and sources of funding new developments reflect the significance of economic aspects in planning decision-making. For example, in Sydney, residential market, rezoning Green Square lands which renew the old industrial and residential area located between Central Sydney and Sydney International Airport caused an increase in their economic value which has affected the supply and demand in the market.

Transport and travelling behaviour comprise another set of issues playing an important role in planning decisions. For example, The Council of the City of Sydney (2008) reports that travelling by private vehicles increased significantly between 2001 and 2006. The percentage of Green Square residents using this mode of transport to other destinations increased from 49 to 51 %. Additionally, in 2006 about half of Green Square residents owned one vehicle and approximately 20 per cent of them owned more than one, so the average of car ownership at Green Square was 1.09 which was higher than that of Sydney City of 0.77 in the same year. (Sydney City Council, 2008). Thus, it can be concluded that travelling by private vehicles is preferred among those who live in that area. However, the increase in preference rate for vehicle transport can lead to certain problems and challenges which should be considered in planning decision-making.

The issue of housing is another significant one that requires consideration by the government. The relation between supply and demand in terms of housing and how it would affect the expected population needs to get sufficient attention in planning decision making. Indeed, governments attempt to balance between supply of dwellings and demand in housing market and sub-market which is called ‘the equilibrium’. However, the question of what would be the potential challenges if the planning does not reach the equilibrium in terms of housing remains. The shortage of housing in Sydney for example is one of these challenges affecting social environment. This shortage in residential markets has been occasioned by housing demand which exceeds the quantity supplied as a result of population growth not just in Sydney, but also in many Australian metropolitan cities. For instance, there was a shortage of 200,000 dwelling units in Australian residential market in 2010. Consequently, the housing value and land rent are expected to be affected by this shortage. It will also raise the residential property price by 30 per cent as a result of an under supply in Australian property market (Sayce 2010). Therefore, governments should consider housing issues and provide that balance through planning laws and decision-making.

Environmental concern is the last issue requiring government consideration before planning decision making. These concerns involve environmental protection, heritage conservation and the improvement of life quality especially when governments are required to provide decisions about significant projects and developments covering huge pieces of land (Whitehouse, 1993). Commonly, these sorts of projects need to be rezoned to some lands which are probably used negatively. For instance, protecting environment through reducing pollution levels can be achieved through approving Green Square projects which would renew the industrial land use in these areas. Initially, the idea of Green Square was derived from an attempt to link the history of these areas to planning in order to create a clean, green, and sustainable urban area (Karskens, 2004).

Additionally, dealing with the noise pollution emanating from highways and the development’s impact on the environment should be considered while making decisions in planning (Hogan 1973, pp.387-392). Public opinions or participation should also be considered as a tool of reflecting and measuring the potential conflicts and effects of any decision. This sort of participation provides facilitation in terms of implementing various policies and decisions. For instance, in China most land policies have failed as a result of the lack of public participation (Dawkins, 1996). Paying sufficient attention to public opinions and interests would therefore be important especially in aspects of planning decision-making.


Planning could be explained as an instrument used by governments or authorities to regulate and control developments in particular places. This instrument has been used to achieve several objectives touching on social promotion, economic welfare of communities, protection of the environment and enhancement of natural resources. Thus, these objectives reported in section five of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 illustrate what governments actually seek by implementing planning. However, planning decision making is not an easy task for governments and some issues arise. Such issues include changes in population, the characteristics of the community, environmental impact and transport issues among others. For governments to succeed in planning decision making, then it implies that these issues must be addressed exhaustively. A careful analysis of the issues arising presents a better chance for governments to justify the objectives of planning decision making. It is clear from this essay that governments have many objectives in planning decision making which are achieved by first identifying the issues and interests involved.

Reference List

Dawkins, J. (1996). In praise of regulation. Australian Planner, 33(1): 10-15.

Department of Local Government and Planning (2011). The State of Queensland. Web.

High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh. (2010), Riyadh Urban Indicators, Web.

Hogan, C. (1973). Analysis of Highway Noise; Journal of Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. Vol. 2, No. 3, Biomedical and Life Sciences and Earth and Environmental Science Issue, pp. 387-392, Netherlands.

Karskens, G. (2004). Introducing the Green Square History Project, Histories of Green Square. pp 9-12, UNSW Printing & Publishing Services.

NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979). Web.

Princeton University. (2010). Princeton University, USA. Web.

Sayce, K. (2010). Revealed: the truth about Aussie house prices – and how the property industry’s covered it up; Money Morning Australia. Melbourne: Port Phillip Publishing Pty Ltd.

The Council of the City of Sydney (2008). The Green Square Transport Management and Accessibility Plan, vol. 3, Sydney, Web.

The Scottish Government, (2011). Scottish Planning System. Web.

Whitehouse, J. (1993). The Relationship between Mining and Planning Law in NSW, paper presented to the Mining Law Short Course. Key Centre for Mines, UNSW, pp. 12-16.

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