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Town Planning and Urban Development in Malaysia

government building example: Town Planning and Urban Development in Malaysia - The History

Town planning and urban development in Malaysia started throughout the pre-classic and classical eras till current times. During those years, many changes have occurred that have created some of the beautiful architecture we have today.

This post will travel back in time to learn how urban and town planning originated. We’ll also review the most current and future initiatives, including Transformasi National 2050 (TN 50).

Pre-Classical and Classical Period

5th Century BC

Hippodamus (Greek Philosopher) is considered as first Town Planner and originator of the orthogonal urban arrangement.

Several cities built out according to preset blueprints.

For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh was the earliest account of urban planning where the towns were set out on a grid plan. Also, the hierarchy of the streets goes from the main boulevard to residential alleyways, and a drainage system is constructed.

494 Before Century

Regular orthogonal plans notably seem to have been put out for new Miletus colonial towns. These towns were rebuilt in a short period after the Persians destroyed them.

Alexander commissioned the architect Dinocrates to lay out his new city of Alexandria. This city is the grandest example of idealised urban planning of the ancient Hellenistic world, where the city’s regularity was facilitated by its level site near a mouth of the Nile.

The ancient Romans also adopted periodic orthogonal structures on which they fashioned their settlements.

The Romans adopted an integrated method for city planning, devised for civic convenience.

The basic layout consisted of a central forum with municipal amenities, surrounded by a tight, rectilinear grid of streets. A river passed near or through the city on occasion, giving water, transportation, and sewage disposal.

Medieval Europe

From the 9th through the 14th century

Initially, urban culture was recovered primarily on existing settlements, often in the ruins of Roman towns and cities. Still, as time went on, more cities were built from the ground up.

Due to the rapidly rising population of western Europe, old communities’ agricultural fields were expanded. Subsequently, new villages and towns were established in uncultivated regions as centres for new reclamations.

Whether in an extended hamlet or the heart of a bigger city, early Middle Ages urban growth was centred around a fortified monastery or an (often abandoned) Roman foundation.

The city layout took on an organic character. This reflected the irregularities of elevation contours, like the forms from agricultural terracing, since the new centre was frequently on high, defensive land.

The formal organization of several of these communities seems to have been purposefully designed based on the evidence of the surviving settlements.

In the sense that the streets are frequently straight and laid out at right angles to one another, and the home lots are rectangular and initially mainly of the same size, newly established towns generally have a remarkable uniformity in their plan shape.

Elburg in the Netherlands is one obvious and rather dramatic example. It seems that maintaining that the straight street and the symmetrical, orthogonal town layout were fresh innovations from “the Renaissance” and hence representative of “modern times” is problematic.

Europe during the Renaissance


Florence was an early example of innovative urban planning. It adopts a star-shaped pattern inspired by the new star fort built to withstand cannon fire.

This form was extensively emulated, demonstrating Florence’s immense cultural impact at the time. Radial roadways radiate outward from military, social, or spiritual power centre.


Vigevano is a one-of-a-kind example of a quattrocento new city centre that has been meticulously designed.

Instead, the city seems to be a contained place encircled by arcading.


Governor Max Emanuel advocated leveraging the restoration of Brussels, which saw a vast portion of the city centre destroyed by King Louis XIV’s French forces, to alter the city’s plan and architectural style radically.

His idea was to turn the medieval city into a modern baroque metropolis, styled after Turin, with a logical street pattern including straight avenues with long, uninterrupted vistas surrounded by buildings of similar size.

Residents and municipal officials were against the concept because they wanted a quick rebuild, didn’t have the means for ambitious projects, and resented what they saw as a waste of money.

They proposed imposing a new, alien architectural style on the city.

The main layout of the city was preserved throughout the restoration, though it was not similar to that which existed before the calamity.

Despite the urgent need for restoration and a lack of financial resources, officials took several steps to enhance traffic flow, cleanliness, and the city’s attractiveness.

To increase traffic flow, several roadways were constructed as broad as feasible.

Before World War II

1666: The Great Fire

With broader streets, stone building, and access to the river, London improved cleanliness and fire safety.

Stimulate people to think about urban design and how it has affected city planning in North America.

The Grand Model for the Province of Carolina was created, serving as a model for colonial development.

The Oglethorpe Plan for Savannah is established in 1733

1801: The Formation Of Committee Of Assessors in Penang

When the Committee of Assessors was constituted in George Town, Penang, the country’s first “local planning authority” was founded.

This group, which was made up of volunteers, was given the task of laying out George Center to promote the growth of the colonial administrative town.

The development of roadways and drainage in George Town is one of the Committee’s critical efforts.

1852: Redesign of Paris’s Medieval Street Plan

Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann was tasked with updating the city’s Medieval street plan by demolishing large sections of the old quarters and laying out wide boulevards that extended beyond the old city limits.

Haussmann’s vision included all areas of urban planning, including building facades, public parks, sewers and waterworks, municipal utilities, and public monuments, both in the heart of Paris and in the outlying districts.

Aside from aesthetic and hygienic concerns, the broad streets made army mobility and enforcement easier.

The General Theory of Urbanisation is established in 1867

Catalan engineer Ildefons Cerdà extends Barcelona’s contemporaneous plan based on a thorough appraisal of its contemporary needs.

In his General Theory of Urbanisation, he is credited with coining the word “urbanisation.”

The idea comprised 550 regular blocks with chamfered corners crossed by three broader corridors to enable tram passage.

His goals were to improve the health of the residents, which he accomplished by designing the blocks around central gardens and orienting them NW-SE to maximize the amount of sunlight they received and aid social integration.

Modern Urban Planning

1898: Garden City Movement

Sir Ebenezer Howard, the first prominent urban planning theorist, founded the garden city movement.

Earlier planned communities built by industrial philanthropists in the countryside, such as Cadbury’s Bournville, Lever’s Port Sunlight, and George Pullman’s eponymous Pullman in Chicago, were inspirations for this.

These settlements decentralized the working environment from the city centres and provided factory workers with a healthy living environment.

This victory was generalized by Howard into a deliberate movement for the nation as a whole.

The Town and Country Planning Association were established in 1899

1904: First Garden City plan of Letchworth, London

Raymond Unwin, a well-known architect and town planner, won the competition to develop Letchworth, a community 34 miles outside of London, with his colleague Richard Barry Parker.

Unwin and Parker designed the town in the heart of the Letchworth estate, surrounded by Howard’s extensive agricultural greenbelt, and they agreed with Howard that the working class needed better and more affordable homes.

On the other hand, the architects discarded Howard’s symmetrical design in favour of a more “organic” one.

The First Academic Course on Urban Planning was held in 1909

The University of Liverpool provided the course.

1909: Establishment of Housing and Town Planning Act in the UK

The first official assessment of these new trends pushed local governments to implement consistent town planning systems throughout the nation based on the new ‘garden city’ concepts and assure that all dwelling development met particular building requirements.

Following this Act, surveyors, civil engineers, architects, attorneys, and others collaborated with the local government in the United Kingdom to draft land development plans. The concept of town planning as a new and unique field of competence emerged.

The First Town Planning Inspector in the United Kingdom is appointed in 1910

At the beginning of the century, Thomas Adams was selected as the first Town Planning Inspector.

The Local Government Board convened a meeting of practitioners.

The first official town planning committee was formed in 1913

G.H.Day, a Federal Councillor, suggested to the then-Federal Council of Malaya the formation of a Town Planning Committee to process construction designs for public buildings and government quarters.

Consequently, the Kuala Lumpur Town Planning Committee / Town Planning KL committee was formed.

1913-1917: The Formation of Early Town Planning Related Legislations

During this time, some of the country’s early town planning laws were created mainly to allow local governments or municipalities to carry out their responsibilities to guarantee public health.

The Municipal Ordinance CAP 133 of 1913 and the Town Improvement Enactment of 1917 were two of this legislation.

The formerly included rules for creating a “plan of buildings” that detailed the distribution of roadways, backlanes, and open space to promote public health, amenity, and convenience.

While the latter permitted Sanitary Boards to make any improvement to Sanitary Board areas, including the removal of structures unsuitable for human habitation and the expansion of open space, the former did not.

1914: The Town Planning Institute was founded

The institution was founded to further the study of urban planning and civic design.

The First Government Town Planner is Appointed in 1921

Charles C. Reade was named the Federated Malay States of Malaya’s (Malaysia was formerly known as Malaya) first Government Town Planner. His appointment also signalled the formal start of Malaya’s Town Planning Department.

Reade was entrusted with the task of preparing planning schemes for the country’s local governments. His office at the Department of Town Planning was formerly located at the Secretariat Building on Jalan Raja in Kuala Lumpur.

1922: Contemporary City

Le Corbusier, a well-known modernist architect, presented his plan for a three-million-person “Contemporary City” (Ville Contemporaine).

The sixty-story cruciform towers, steel-framed office structures covered in massive glass curtain walls, were the centrepiece of this proposal.

1922: Report by The Government Town Planner

Reade handed in a study titled “Town Planning and Development in the Federated Malay States.

Preliminary Report and General Survey with Recommendations to the Acting Under Secretary to Government, FMS, by the Government Town Planner”.

The report called for the introduction of modern town planning into Malaya.

The Town Planning Enactment was passed in 1923

Charles C. Reade presented the Federal Council of Federated Malay States with the Town Planning and Development Bill 1923. The Town Planning Enactment of 1923 was enacted as a result of the Bill.

In terms of planning authority and legislative provisions, the Enactment was highly extensive, including measures for planning, development control, the capacity to undertake town improvement projects, and the establishment of Town Planning Committees to monitor planning operations.

A three-month approval time was implemented.

This Act was noteworthy in that it established a distinct and special law for the improvement and development of towns and other regions within the sphere of town planning.

1924: Establishment of Town Planning Course at Harvard University, America

It was the first course offered by Harvard University.

1924: The Plan of a Private Developer vs the Plan of a Town Planner

This is when a private developer begins to submit a proposal for their development to the government’s town planner for approval.

The First Town Planning Exhibition was held in 1926

From the 27th to August 31 1926, Kuala Lumpur hosted the first Town Planning expo in Malaya. It included a collection of blueprints and graphics related to Kuala Lumpur’s urban development.

The Town Planning Enactment of 1923 is amended in 1927

On February 28, 1927, the Federal Council modified and adopted the Town Planning Enactment of 1923.

It led to a significant decrease in statutory provisions for town planning, including the elimination of the Town Planning Committee and the restoration of town planning functions to local governments, namely the Sanitary Boards.

1929: A New Government Town Planner Is Appointed

To replace C. C. Reade, R.P. Davies was named the next Government Town Planner. During this period, the Town Planning Department, which was based in Kuala Lumpur, expanded its services to the other Federated Malay States, including Perak, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan.

It aided in the establishment of a foundation for the ultimate development of town planning across the nation.

Part IX of the Sanitary Board Enactment (CAP 137) was enacted in 1930.

Since 1916, many revisions to the Sanitary Boards Enactments have been consolidated under one Act.

It included provisions from the Town Planning Enactment of 1927 that allowed Sanitary Boards to prepare General Town Plans (also known as zoning plans).

Following WWII, CAP 137 was renamed Town Boards Enactment to reflect the growing role of local governments.

Part IX: Urban Development CAP 137’s provisions served as the foundation for Malaysian planning until new legislation was enacted in 1976.

The Radiant City was founded in 1935

Le Corbusier’s theories on urbanization were extended and reformed, finally published in La Ville radieuse (The Radiant City).

The Radiant City abandoned the former’s class-based segregation, assigning homes based on family size rather than economic status.

The public housing in Europe and the United States builders sporadically adopted Le Corbusier’s theories.

The County of London Plan is established in 1943

If the city was to be rebuilt at an acceptable density, the design recognized that population and employment relocation would be required.

The Greater London Plan was established in 1944

Over one million people would have to be relocated, according to the idea, into a combination of satellite suburbs, existing rural towns, and new towns.

The New Towns Act was established in 1946

Over the next several decades, several New Towns were built in the United Kingdom due to the legislation.

Pre-Independence Years

Extension of the Department of Town Planning in 1948

The Town Planning Department’s activities were expanded after WWII to include Town Boards and Municipal areas in the then Malayan Union.

The Federal Town Planning Department continued to serve as the Federal Government’s planning adviser under the Federal Agreement of 1948.

The establishment of the Federal Town Planning Department regional offices in 1955-1956

The Federal Town Planning Department’s activities in Malaya were coordinated by establishing new regional offices, such as the Southern Region Office in Johor Bahru, the Central-Northern Region Office in Ipoh, and the Northern Region Office in Penang’s Fort Cornwallis.

The department was involved in preparing FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority) development plans in 1956, which included large-scale mass resettlement schemes.

Post-Independence Years

1957: The Federal and State Governments Share Town Planning Responsibilities

The town planning system was reorganized after independence by the new form of government. It stipulates the roles of the Federal and State governments in the Federal Constitution.

Town planning (and local governance) are the concurrent responsibilities of both the federal and state governments under the Constitution.

The fact that property is within the authority of the state government complicates matters. As a result, although federal town planning officials are seconded to state town planning agencies, they are functionally state officials reporting to state governments.

1961: New Town and Country Planning Legislation Initiative

W. Fairbank, the then-Commissioner of Town Planning, submitted a paper to the Cabinet asking Cabinet approval for, among other things, a new Town and Country Planning Act for all of Peninsular Malaysia, i.e. Malaya’s Town and Country Planning Ordinance.

The paper emphasized the need for a National Plan to coordinate urban and rural development throughout the country. It also highlighted the necessity to raise town planning services from the local level to regional and national planning.

1966: The First Draft of National Town Planning Legislation

On July 12, 1966, the first draft of Malaya’s proposed Town and Country Planning Ordinance was created and presented to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

1972: Revised National Planning Act

On June 30, 1972, the first draft of the Revised National Planning Act was finished. It recommended, among other things, the formation of a National Master Plan, the establishment of many levels of planning authority, and the inclusion of public engagement in the planning process.

When it was eventually submitted as the Town and Country Planning Bill 1975, the provisions in this Draft were extensively changed.

Town and Country Planning Act (TCP Act) was enacted in 1976

The Malaysian Parliament passed the TCP Act in 1976, intending to establish a unified system of legislation and policy for town and country planning throughout Peninsular Malaysia.

The TCP Act 1976, in particular, strives to provide adequate management and regulation of town and country planning in local authority areas in Peninsular Malaysia’s several states.

The following are some of the critical aspects of the TCP Act of 1976:

  • The establishment of a two-tiered Development Plan framework;
  • A development control system;
  • The formation of a State Planning Committee and
  • The establishment of an Appeals Board

Many states adopted the TCP Act of 1976 between 1978 and 1985

During this time, several states in Peninsular Malaysia adopted and implemented the TCP Act 1976. The TCP Act of 1976 stipulates that the State Authority may implement the Act in whichever way it deems most appropriate.

Since January 1, 1985, the State of Penang has fully implemented and enforced the TCP Act 1976.

Several states, including Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, and Terengganu all accepted parts of the TCP Act 1976, especially Part I (Preliminary), Part II (Policy and Administration), and Part III (Enforcement) (Development Plans).

1989: Emerging of Sustainable Development

This concept was established and pushed for in the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report Our Common Future, released in 1987, guiding principles for urban design.

Vision 2020 is established in 1991

Wawasan 2020, or Vision 2020, is a Malaysian ideal proposed by Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s

former Prime Minister, at the announcement of the Sixth Malaysia Plan.

The vision calls for the country to become a self-sufficient industrialised nation by 2020. It embraces all elements of life, including economic success, social well-being, world-class education, political stability, and psychological balance.

The Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 1995 and the Town Planners Act 1995 were passed in 1995

In 1995, two noteworthy events occurred:

Firstly, the TCP Act of 1976 was changed to simplify Town Planning legislation and policy in Peninsular Malaysia. The Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 1995, in particular, emphasizes environmental management in planning, such as topographical characteristics and tree protection.

It also establishes a stricter set of development control and assessment requirements. For example, the necessity to submit a Development Proposal Report – along with layout designs – when applying for planning clearance.

Secondly, in 1995, the Town Planner Act was passed. It marks a turning point in Malaysia’s growth of town planning as a profession. This Act governs the town planning profession by establishing a Town Planners Board and registering town planners certified to do certain planning activities.

1996: The Diamond Jubilee of Malaysian Town Planning and the Birth of the Malaysian Town Planning Homepage (MTP)

In Malaysia, the town planning profession will commemorate its 75-year Diamond Jubilee on January 17 in Fort Cornwallis in Penang, where some of the country’s early town planning efforts took place. This event marks the Town Planning Department’s 75th year of service in Malaysia.

The National Landscape Department was established in 1996

The National Landscape Division (NLD) was founded on January 1, 1996, to help the government with landscape planning.

Establishment of a One-Stop Center in 2007

A system was put in place to guarantee that development projects are approved in four months or less.

Furthermore, the Housing and Local Government Ministry established the centre in response to a need for changes in the government’s delivery system.

The OSC has the authority to approve planning approval, construction plans, and land development proposals. The OSC committee will convene regularly and will have the authority to make decisions at such sessions.

The Town and Country Planning Act (Amendment 2016) was enacted in 2016

Every federal and state government department or agency will be required to seek input from the National Physical Planning Council on development projects under the new Section 208.

This applies to any coastal reclamation proposals, excluding reclamation for the construction of jetty or beach rehabilitation and any structure of major national infrastructures, such as airports, seaports, and other infrastructure of national interest, as determined by the council.

Every development project must now include a social impact assessment report and mitigation measures to address any social issues that may occur as a result of the revision to Section 21A.

In a Nutshell: 2018 to the Present

Transformasi National 2050 (TN 50) was established in 2018

To imagine Malaysia’s growth strategy beyond 2020 to meet the aspirations of the younger generation.

TN50 (Transformasi Nasional 2050) is an initiative for Malaysia’s future from 2020 to 2050. We should strive to be among the top global countries in terms of economic development, citizen well-being, and innovation. Moreover, this is in line with our vision of becoming a developed nation.


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