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Evolution of Town Planning as a Profession

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

Planning profession essentially is concerned with shaping the future based on the past experiences. In a highly urbanised country such as Britain they have to work with the planning arrangements and ideologies of the planners, which are inherited from the past. Planning, necessarily means regulating urban spaces and the ways in which they are to be done. Planning system guides them and embodies past political assumptions and social institutions with the help of planning policy instrument. They have to live and improve the past planning decisions, expressed within the fabric of towns and cities. This is essentially not to argue that planners have to always see what has happened in the past but to develop an understanding of town planning to be more creative and constructive although it is good to be futuristic and creative, failing to refer to the past can be catastrophic and may lead to disaster. Nor is it true as many planners believe that past was the only thing that they have to look forward to during Thatcherite assaults with her pessimistic movements towards planning. Town planning is necessarily a tradition of thoughts, policy and affirmative actions towards achieving certain planning goals (Ward, 2004).

In the late 19th century town planning began as a series of radical reformist movement of ideas in areas of land reforms, housing and other important aspects of town planning such as community building, protection of amenities and the open spaces. In the early 20th century i.e. in 1905 the term ‘town planning’ was coined for the first time to give these ideas identity and coherence to form town planning as a discipline. This resulted in establishment of professional organisations such as Garden City and Town Planning Association, The national housing and Town Planning Council and the Town Planning Institute which played a central role in this. In early days of this movement it was expressed in terms of a conceptual framework such as garden cities and suburbs, and gained a professional recognition. Within few decades of Intellectual tradition of town planning, ideas, conceptual frameworks and theories were developed. The radical notion of social cities, planned with a strategic model of planned metropolitan decentralisation and containment of the society as a whole (Ward, 2004).

In the late 1930’s. the rise of the modern movement in architecture and planning brought functionalist theories extended to entire cities and most of these ideas were implemented on a sizeable scale. The intellectual innovation in town planning which was independent of planning policies in practice. However, by 1940’s town planning ideas started to be incorporated comprehensively into official town planning policies and was evolved as a planning system rather than an independent movement. There was further innovation in the processes of planning policies especially after 1960’s. The practice of town planning was more focused on celebrating contemporary success of the town planning (such as the New Towns) and was less concerned about developing new radical models in planning (Ward, 2004).

During 1970s and 1980s the town planning movement landed in a situation where there was no autonomous intellectual tradition that would enable different development alternatives which were available traditionally. However, new environmentalist ideas emerged during these years from other intellectual traditions than the town planning became part and parcel of planning policies (Ward, 2004).


Ward, S 2004, Planning and Urban Change, SAGE Publications, London. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [7 March 2019].

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