Government agencies and local authorities in Malaysia have long been using computers and GIS in their work. In particular, the departments responsible for the various processes of town and country planning (or urban and regional planning) find the use of GIS invaluable, as much of their work uses information that is expressed in spatial formats. The procedures for town and country planning in Malaysia are spelled out in the country’s Town and Country Act of 1976, which is modeled after UK’s 1947 act of the same name. Specifically, the act requires the preparation of a structure plan for every state and a more detailed local plan for every local authority area. A later amendment to the act requires also the preparation of a National Physical Plan for the whole country. These are essentially physical plans and they are used mainly to control and coordinate the use and development of land and the protection of the environment in all these areas. In the process of preparing these plans, comprehensive data on all relevant planning matters, including social and economic issues, have to be gathered and analyzed to identify present and projected problems that need to be addressed in the plans.
The map is the basic component of these plans, and the mapping capabilities of GIS have been fully exploited in their production at the national, state and local authority levels. This has been helped a great deal by the computerization of all cadastral maps covering the whole country by the Land and Survey Department in the 90’s. The Federal Town and Country Planning Department and its state counterparts have now produced land use maps for all states in digital form and have recently posted all these in their Planning Portal in the net. However much can still be done especially in the use of GIS for spatial database management and data analysis necessary for planning purposes. Several initiatives have been started in this area, such as the Penang State PEGIS and the Selangor State SGIS.
Another branch of town and country planning is development control. The tedious procedure required by the act in the development control process has caused time delay, financial loss and great unhappiness on the part of developers. The use of the computer and GIS has again been of much help to overcome some of these problems, particularly where applications for planning permission and the making of recommendations and decisions can be done electronically.
This paper looks at the useful role of computers and GIS in the practice of town and country planning in Malaysia and traces some successful examples of work done.