Town planning has been around since the beginning of organised civilisation. Although not as complex as today, with the advent of advocacy, zoning and advanced strategic spatial planning, growing human settlements historically required of inhabitants to organise their living spaces. This included making provision for water channels, sewage, stockpiling of grain and wood, creating adequate housing for animals, spaces for markets, town centres, law centres, and housing for humans. All the while there needed to be pathways for walking and eventually horses, carts and related transport matters.
Once the nomadic lifestyle was exchanged for cultivation the organisation of various activities and products was needed. Some settlements grew quickly due to their location, allowing easy access to water and thus creation of channels for the purpose of irrigation and human consumption. Other settlements grew slowly as the settlements weren’t established near easily available resources such as wood, stone, water and minerals.
Occupations developed over time and specialisation occurred with people taking on roles such as priests, soldiers, inn-keepers, slave traders, sailors, blacksmiths, barbers, dress makers, bakers, and general traders.
In the time of the early Sumerians and Egyptians, there was evidence of organised structures of civilisation within specific geographic boundaries. People grouped together and town planning was originally practiced mainly by the priesthood in the early civilisations, such as the ones established in Greece, Persia and the Roman Empire.
City states developed all over Europe during the Renaissance era and city planners spent a great deal of time and resources to add to the aesthetic value of buildings and public areas within the city boundaries. This marked the beginning of modern urban planning. With many people urbanising during the period, health and safety related problems occurred. Thousands of people in small spaces close to each other with poor sanitation provided the breeding grounds for disease and fire. As a result of epidemics, the focus shifted towards health and safety considerations in planning, especially in the United Kingdom.
During the early years towns in South Africa were characterised by grid type lay-outs and the lack of consideration for appropriate zoning of spaces, necessitated rethinking of street patterns and conduits of movement. Later developments reflected a new approach, providing for better planned spaces and transport systems. Modern town planning approaches take the human footprint, sustainability and wellbeing into consideration.