Spatial planning entails planning regarding people and activity distribution and usage of space by private and public sectors. In essence, spatial planning entails a coordinated effort by various stakeholders in developing and maintaining policies and practices that affect the way that people and activities are distributed in a specific country, region, or particular urban area. Spatial planning also takes place on an international level and includes the setting of a spatial planning and land usage management framework.

Urban planning is only a part of spatial planning, which is the overall strategy of the government and stakeholders, such as provincial governments, in allocating and developing spaces. Urban planning affects the future of specific spaces and the communities occupying those spaces. It includes transportation, public utilities, housing, recreational areas, health facilities, and natural resource allocation. An urban plan has a long-term focus and it is comprehensive. Land-use management forms an integral part of the plan. It provides a layout plan for future usage of the particular land space, with provision for the various activities. It addresses aspects such as areas to be developed, areas to keep open for conservation, and areas to be zoned for residential, industrial, commercial, agricultural, or recreational activities, in line with the overall spatial planning policies of the province, government, or international spatial planning principles and policies.

Various types of dwellings can be found in urban areas. As part of urban planning, the various stakeholders and professionals in the field consider the housing needs of the communities in the spaces and plan the layout of the urban area to allow for appropriate housing. Policies regarding which type of houses must be catered for are put in place and plans developed accordingly. Provision must be made for various income groups, such as upmarket estates, low-cost housing, student accommodation and, for instance, senior-care facilities.

Transportation forms another component of the process. It includes assessment of the overall transport infrastructure development needed to address the transportation requirements of the various communities in the specific space. It also includes the development and maintenance of freeways, rapid-transit bus routes, cycling paths, pedestrian paths, mass transport facilities, etc.

Another component of the planning entails design. This is focussed on aesthetic value and function. The urban planners consider the various physical elements of the urban environment to ensure that the structure and spaces are designed to serve specific functions, in addition to improving the overall aesthetics of the spaces. Layouts of complete cities, suburbs and also individual parks and buildings, form part of the design component. Open spaces, usage of natural resources, and provision for recreational activities are also important. This includes addressing air, water, and land resource quality and fulfilling the need for open spaces, sport, and leisure. It is essential to plan long term, as well to ensure that natural resources are used in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Infrastructure development is another component and includes planning for placement of water drainage pipes, stormwater drains, power lines, power stations, public safety facilities, and more in a functional way to serve the needs of the community. The above is planned with due consideration of the other elements, such as transportation, land use, open spaces, housing, and more. Apart from the long-term plans, the urban planners also develop specialised short-term plans to address urban design requirements for particular areas or communities.

Community involvement in the urban planning processes is important. Community members are encouraged to participate in public involvement processes related to planning by attending meetings, participating in focus groups, collecting information, and spreading awareness. It is essential to balance the needs of communities, the protection of the environment, sustainable usage of resources, and the economic and social development goals of the government. Urban planning in line with the spatial planning and land use management framework of the government or province can only be successful if the above is realised and stakeholder involvement encouraged and fully utilised.

Professional urban planning companies, such as The Practice Group, assist municipalities, communities, and other professionals such as land surveyors, city engineers, architects, and attorneys, to create sustainable cities. Spatial planning assistance is provided to government institutions and NGOs in developing long-term applicable policies and plans for land use management and creation of a workable spatial development framework.