An Introductory Approach to Design in Urban & Regional Planning


The nature of human settlements require that component parts be carefully planned and integrated for functionality and efficiency. Within a system of settlements, the planning becomes more challenging because each settlement must be planned first to function as a separate entity, and to also function efficiently within the system of settlements to which it belongs.
However, not all the components making up a settlement can be subjected adequately to planning control or influence. An appropriate planning framework should therefore b established for settlements based on their hierarchy, spatial location and size, as well as the functions which they perform. Just as settlements differ, the planning framework to deal with them also differ, from master plan to local plan and down to subject plan.

The structure of an area in Town Planning context is the collective physical, economic, and social system of an area which can be subjected to or manipulated by planning control or influence. The structure of a settlements establishes the planning framework for it and is taken to cover such issues as the various activities and the relationship between them (e.g residential, commercial, industrial activities), the distribution of the population, the general patterns of landuse and the development which the various activities lead to, in addition to the communication networks and the systems of utility services (water, electricity, fire services, postal services etc).
In structure planning, activities which normally draw patronage beyond the physical limits of such settlement must be extensively studied. Such activities will include education, shopping, employment and recreation among others.
The limits of these spheres of influence are very dynamic (for example, increasing income leads to higher car-ownership which makes it possible for people to travel longer distances to work or recreation), they rarely coincide with each other, and obviously do not match administrative boundaries of the settlement. In addition too, significant overlaps occur between the areas of attraction of different major centres, and hierarchical relationship in the form of rank-size often manifest between centres of different size.

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It must be noted that it is this complex and constantly changing pattern that forms the basis of the structure and should be meticulously examined and planned in the most comprehensive manner possible. Since structure plan has little or nothing to do with administrative areas or boundaries, adjacent areas outside of administrative boundaries must be considered along side.
This is usually done in the form of collaboration or urban development authorities.

Lastly, structure plan must take into consideration the existing regional and national policies and also note the decision and trends affecting activities which lie outside of its immediate boundaries but have significant implications. Where this situation has been established, then it becomes necessary for planning authorities to co-operate in the preparation of their individual plans. Such cooperation may extend to the standardization, pooling, and analysis of survey material. It will also require that the aims, policies, and proposals in the structure plan be co-ordinated with that of the adjoining area.


Although the Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning Law of 1992 does not specifically assign functions to structure plan, the expectations of the law from any Development plan gives insight to what structure plans should accomplish.

To Interpret National and State Policies Formulation of planning policies in Nigeria are done by the levels of government- the Federal through National Planning Commission (which is not yet in place but whose functions are undertaken by Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development) and the States, through Urban and Regional Planning Board.
The structure Plan must be prepared in accordance with national and state policies in such manners that are appropriate to the area concerned.

To establish aims, policies, and general proposals.
A structure plan encompasses the planning agency’s aims for the area, and the various strategies, policies, and general proposals necessary for these aims to be achieved.

To provide the framework for local plans.
The context within which local plans are prepared must first be set by Structure Plan which would have interpreted the national and state policies appropriately. These broad policies set by Structure Plan will now form the framework on which local plans will now evolve their own more detailed policies and proposals.

To indicate action area
Structure Plan should identify priority areas for intensive action and indicate in clear terms the nature of treatment.

To provide guidance for development control
Although it is the local plans that provide detailed guidance on development control, it takes many years for local plans to achieve universal coverage. As such, structure plan will provide the basis for development control for areas not covered, or yet to be covered, by local plans.

To provide basis for co-ordinating decision
The initial stages in the preparation of structure plan will provide a useful forum for all stakeholders to discuss wide range of issues. Through consultation and negotiation, the structure plan will provide a co-ordinated platform upon which planning authorities, local councils, and other interest groups can develop their various programmes of work for which they have statutory responsibility to undertake.

To inform the public on main planning issue and decisions
It is the function of structure plan to bring to the knowledge of the public the planning authority’s intention and the reasoning behind those intentions.


Decision level appropriate to plan
Given its functions, it is clear that a structure plan is a DECISION DOCUMENT. For a policy or proposal to be included in a structure it must be determined whether or not it affects or will affect significantly the structure of the area. The purpose of any policy or proposal is to guide the course of change in the structure of an area, or to conserve, either indefinitely or for a period, an aspect of the existing structure.
Where a decision does not contribute to that change or conservation, then it should not be included in the plan.

Reasoning behind decisions
The structure plan should explain to the public and higher authority how decisions were arrived at. For this reason, it is important to clearly establish the aims for the area, examine alternative strategies and their elements, and show why a particular course of action was chosen. The summarized substantiation is equally important where existing policies are to be continued and they should be distinguished from new policies.

Decision expressed as policies proposals
The situation will arise as to decide whether particular measures in the structure plan should be expressed as proposals, relating to particular areas or whether they should be expressed more generally as policies. Within a Local Council area, decisions will be necessary on the size, function or other criteria that will determine whether particular settlements should be dealt with individually or covered by more generalized statements of intent. In urban areas, twilight housing or buildings worthy of conservation may occur in groups which are large enough, relative to the size of the town to warrant a statement of proposals for areas in which they are located. It is equally possible that they are scattered and have to be dealt with by a more general policy relating to that particular type or condition of development. These are just matters of scale and will have to be determined for each structure plan.

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Development Control policies
Where items of structural importance have been identified, there will be need for general development control policies to take care of them. For examples, developing areas adjoining the primary road network and with areas to it; for the location of high rise buildings; and for the regrouping of shopping facilities currently lining radial roads. The specific application of general development control policies to particular areas is a matter for local plans.

The proposals contained in the structure plan must be realistic. The planning agencies will be competing for limited resources and they will be subjected to both macro and micro national economic policies. A measure of the feasibility of the structure plan i thus essential for stakeholders to be assured the plan is realistic in the context of the constraints imposed by the likely availability of resources. The stakeholders will also want to know if it makes the most efficient use of those resources. Due to the open-ended nature of structure plan and its broad treatment of planning issues, presentation of the implications the plan has for public and private investment may not be to detail.

However, an explanation of the methods used to examine the economic and financial viability of the plan should be clearly spelt out in the written statement aspect of the structure plan. The statement should also indicate how the planning authority have resolved the conflicting demand for resources, may be through an assessment of the social and financial costs and benefits of alternative schemes. The supporting information that accompanies the statement should describe these methods fully.

Phasing and dates
Due to the fact that it is not possible to look ahead over the same period of time for all aspects of the plan, structure plans do not relate to a fixed end date. Notwithstanding, it will be significant to indicate how these various aspects are to be interrelated in the future, and how the plan is to be co-ordinated with those of neighbouring authorities.
The time factor in structure plan is taken care of in four ways.
By highlighting short-term projects-for example those programmes concerning action areas.
By summarizing the stages of implementation, by drawing particular attention to any key dates in the plan, and by giving a summary description of the intended situation at those dates.
By setting out the proposed population at say 10-year period based on projection from National Population Commission Census figure. The projections are significant for the provision of such elements as employment, housing and social facilities.
By highlighting some policies which are open-ended, long-term and broad in outlines. For examples, the long-term direction of urban growth. Dates can not be attached to this but should be included to present a clearer picture and show their relationship with short-term proposals.

Structure plans consists of 3 distinct elements, namely:
Written Statement this gives insight into policies, general proposals and related information on key subjects of the plan such as population, Employment, Transportation etc.
Support Information This relates to studies and analyses carried out in respect of existing situation and estimates for the future. It provides substantiation for measures adopted in the plan, including comparisons of such alternatives as have been examined.
Diagrams – These comprise of KEY diagrams and SUBJECT diagrams. Proposals and policies are graphically related to areas affected and cross-referenced to the written statement.

Written Statement for structure plans should be prepared using the format explained below.

This covers a brief description of component documents and supporting documents. Also, the arrangement of the written statement should be explained and the referencing method indicated.

This relates to existing structure and requires a descriptive analysis of the social, economic, and physical characteristics, and in particular of the existing structural elements of the area. The descriptive analysis will also be extended to an assessment of the success or failure of the planning policies in operation, and a description of where the absence of a policy has given rise to difficulties. Lastly, the relationship of the local government area for which the structure plan is been prepared with neighbouring areas should be described.

The structure plan will contain provisions that have national and regional importance and should therefore be related to frameworks at these levels. This interaction should be explained by the written statement. Also at the sub-regional level where adjoining local government areas must act jointly, the statement of each individual authority’s structure plan should include a summary of those decisions taken jointly by the group which affect planning policies over the whole area.

It is important to state, explain and give the reasoning behind the specific intention (the aims) underlying the plan. These aims should be derived from the study of the national, regional, and sub-regional policies for the area and from an examination of the existing structure as revealed by the survey results. Where conflicts occur in the aims, the statement should explain how the aims have been ranked in importance or why one aim has been given preference over the others.

This aspect is very critical in that it coordinates the aims of the plan and determines broadly how they are to be achieved. The statement will dwell on reasoning behind the strategy and the Explanation of chosen strategy.
The reasoning behind the strategy should dwell on the description and comparison of alternative strategies that were examined. For example, evaluation against stated aims, comparison with resources likely to be available.
The chosen strategy is to explained in terms of policies and general proposals on the scale, distribution and form of the development or other use of land; relationship between policies, linkages in timing, co-ordinating of agency; and relationship to general proposals in neighbouring areas.

Description of sub-areas e.g. central area of town, water-front. This will make it easy for the authority to present in the structure plan written statement, policies for smaller and more manageable planning units within the whole plan area. Also, it will help to determine where a local plan, e.g. district plan, is likely to be required. Action areas will be indicated and described highlighting the authority’s priorities in terms of action and investment and those areas in which comprehensive treatment, by either public or private agencies, will be focused upon initially.

For each of the under-listed subjects, the statement should discuss in detail the strategy, reasoning behind it, and the choice between alternative policies. These subjects are:
Employment and Income
Recreation and Leisure
Utility services
Industry and Commerce
Conservation, townscape and landscape
Other social and community services.