Urban planning is a big umbrella which suffices various ideas and theories. There is no written rule about the classifications and categories of urban planning concepts. However, this essay tries to systematically brief all the tools, methods, approaches and concepts that together contribute to this big sphere of urban planning. This essay’s concepts in urban planning are classified based on scale, practical approach and theoretical approach. The flowchart below lists the concepts and their sub-classifications. 

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Concepts in Urban planning listed in a flowchart_©Wikipedia

Based on Scale | Urban planning Concepts

  1. Regional planning – Regional planning implies a strategic overview of how to deal with urban issues at a larger scale, sometimes a national scale. This can include various management and development tools such as resource management and development. Regional planning includes and is not limited to environmental and socio-economic planning. Regional plans and policies have been implemented since ancient civilizations. Some of the popular examples are regional planning of Greater London, Paris and New York. These cities have benefited from their corresponding regional plans. 
  2. City planning – City planning is narrower than regional planning. City planning inculcates the policies of the region and focuses on the quality of life in a bordered city. Usually, a small city (also known as a town) is managed by a single entity and a big city is managed by a group of entities, commonly known as municipalities. These entities or municipalities are further divided into departments that oversee various developments in the city. For example, the department of waste management supervises waste collection and disposal in a city. 
Types of Urban planning Concepts Explained - Sheet2
City planning of Glasgow_©Medina Suci, Sama Jabr, Jianhui Shu, Weiyu Huang

3. Neighbourhood planning – The exact definition of a neighbourhood is still not definitive. While some cities do have neighbourhoods with boundaries, other cities call the municipality area a neighbourhood. The dynamic nature of neighbourhoods also makes it difficult to define them. Recently, the concept of neighbourhood planning is taking tread, especially after COVID-19, when people realized the importance of communities and neighbourhoods. While the neighbourhood is a common word for Asian countries and the global South, the Europeans term it blocks planning because a block is the smallest development. 

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Neighbourhood regeneration at Minsk City_©Sasaki.

Based on the Practical Approach 

  1. Strategic Urban Planning – Strategic urban planning refers to devising, analysing and recommending the best ways to develop land, which would not only benefit the government but also the community. Parameters such as inclusivity, sustainability and citizens’ quality of life are considered in strategic urban planning. Different regions around the world have different ways of strategic urban planning. While some cities zone the areas into economic development zone, industrial zone, special zone, etc, other cities prefer to develop comprehensive plans at the city level. Comprehensive plans are usually developed for 10 to 20 years that focus on community/citizen development. It is also known as socio-economic planning in some regions. 
  2. Land use Planning – Land use planning is the most common tool used by cities for development. It is popularly known as zoning. It is an ideal tool for new developments as well as retrofitting existing developments. Recently, the Geographic Information System (GIS) is used to prepare land use data for existing developments. This is not only useful to recommend policies but also helpful in analysing the issues and challenges of the city. Land use planning is flexible across different scales. Zones can be allocated from regional plans up to plots. Hence, the dynamic nature of land use planning makes it popular among planners and city developers. 
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Land use map of Chandigarh, India_©masterplansindia.com

3. Master Planning – Master planning is yet another commonly used tool for development. In the case of big cities, each municipality has their area development plans, known as master plans which are eventually integrated with the comprehensive city plans. Under the umbrella of master planning lies area-specific planning as required such as urban renewal plans for the city centre, urban rehabilitation plans for residential areas, urban regeneration plans for old marketplaces or mixed-used areas, urban beautification for special areas, etc. Master planning as a term is used rather freely by architects and urban planners for individual projects. For example, master plans are extensively used while developing a residential block, a shopping plaza, or a project as small as a neighbourhood park. Many times master planning is used synonymously as land use planning. 

4. Infrastructure Planning – Infrastructure includes energy, water, communication and transportation. The facilities, technology and land required for the smooth functioning of energy, water, communication and transportation is known as infrastructure planning. Because these facilities are owned by the government and the state, infrastructure planning usually is done by the local authorities at the city level. However, privatization is a new concept in infrastructure planning, it might pick pace in the future. 

5. Environmental Planning – Development that does not interrupt nature and its ecosystems is the purpose of environmental planning. Environmental planning has become a mainstream approach in the last two decades owing to awareness of climate change and its implications. One of the important aspects of environmental planning in the city is evaluating the impact of urban development on the environment and its ecosystems and restructuring the city’s planning policies accordingly. 

6. Transportation Planning – With the “15 minutes walkable city” idea gaining popularity, fluctuating oil prices and burning of fossil fuels hazardously impacting the climate, transportation planning has become a common tool for city planning. The efficiency of public transportation directly impacts the energy efficiency of the city. Urban planners all over the world are working on making public transportation accessible and affordable to all. However, transportation planning includes planning efficient public transportation and improving the existing transportation networks. 

Intersection planning_©globaldesigningcities.org

7. Landscape Planning – Landscape planning is branched from landscape architecture, the main difference being the scale. Landscape planners holistically formulate policies and regulations to protect nature, its biodiversity and its ecosystems. Yet another concept that gained popularity in the last two decades. 

Based on the Theoretical Approach | Urban planning Concepts

The list of theories in urban planning is endless. The theories are inspired by time, age, movements and personal ideologies. Many urban planning theories were formulated after the second world when the visionaries were speculating an ideal spatial setting for a city. Some of the proposed theories were put into practice while others are debated upon even today. However, the theories still give insight into the idea of an inclusive and sustainable city. though not the complete model, a part of these theoretical models have been put to practice in regions globally. To name a few of these theories: (1) The garden city movement by Ebenezer Howard proposed a low population density city with good housing, open spaces and wide roads; (2) the city beautiful movement by Daniel Burnham proposed principles that would aesthetically beautiful and enhance visual harmony into old cities. This theory was put into practice in various cities such as New Delhi, Paris, Kampala, etc. (3) Towers in the park by Le Corbusier focused on a high-density energy-efficient city, based on his renowned concept of “House as a machine”.  While Corbusier only designed Chandigarh city in India, his theories were practised globally across cities. (4) Decentralized planning by Frank Llyod Wright identified automobile mobility as a principle planning parameter. The fundamental idea was to literate individuals through technology. Wright visioned several models of a city based on this ideology. 

The other popular theories that took global attention are the sanitary movement, modernist planning, regional planning movement, rational process approach, incrementalism, participatory planning, transactive planning, advocacy planning and many more. 


  1. Articles

Johnson, D. A. (2015). History of Regional Planning. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition), Elsevier, pp. 141 – 145. 

UN-Habitat. (2007). An Introduction to Urban Strategic Planning. (Report). Inclusive and sustainable urban planning: A guide for municipalities: Volume 1. United Nations Human Settlements Program. Pages – 45.

Wehrmann B. (2011). Land use Planning: Concept, Tools and Application. (Report). Land policy and Land Management. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Pages – 232. 

  1. Online sources

Esme H. (2022). What is Environmental Planning? [Online]. Available at: https://www.allthingsnature.org/what-is-environmental-planning.htm [Accessed date: 02/10/2022].

  1. Images/visual mediums

Suci M., Jabr S., Shu J., Huang W. (2021). Urban Design Studies Unit. Available at: http://www.udsu-strath.com/msc-urban-design/future-glasgow-cities-of-little-towns-strategy/  [Photograph].

Sasaki. (2013). Minsk Forest City: A Regeneration of the Minsk-1 Airport. Available at: https://www.sasaki.com/projects/minsk-forest-city-a-regeneration-of-the-minsk-1-airport/ [Photograph].

Masterplans India. (2012). Chandigarh City. [Photograph]. Global Designing Cities Initiative. Intersection Design. Island Press. Available at: https://globaldesigningcities.org/publication/global-street-design-guide/intersections-4/intersection-two-way-one-way-streets/ [Photograph].


Shikha is an urban planner whose work is focused on climate responsive planning and ecosystems in neighbourhood planning. She has a keen interest in comprehending human connections in city spaces through ways of engaging with the community. Her passion for books, travelling, fiction and research writing keeps her motivated.