Fulfilling the Promise of Professionalism: Is there space for better use of planners’ discretion during development management processes?

Marsita Omar - PhD Completion Seminar

Melbourne School of Design - Japanese Room


One aspect of urban planning decisions that remains an ongoing research endeavor is to situate space for better use of professional planners’ discretion during development management processes. While developing body of literature at least within academic circles of planning, discretion signifies planners’ ‘creativity’, ‘outward facing thinking’ and ‘use of non-routinized judgement’ as key features for improved urban planning professional decisions, little evidence is available to illustrate how these key features are essentially used as basis for better use of professional planners’ discretion in actual planning practice. Under what circumstance does discretion best assist in the achievement of general or stated planning goals? Using practical observations contextualized within British, Dutch and Victorian planning systems, the thesis argues that professional discretion opens up our knowledge about the complexity of professional planners’ work conditions within which particular planning policy has to be actually interpreted, adapted and delivered. Indeed, these processes are not purely technical or value free in nature. They involve professional planners’ creativity, forward facing thinking and use of non-routinized judgement with respect to place, as well as in dealing with different interests strategically and holistically to ensure all relevant planning considerations are optimally weighed and balanced. This is the circumstance where professional planners’ discretion is of significance during development management processes.


Ms. Omar is a Town and Country Panning Officer from Department of Town and Country Planning, Brunei since 1995. Her interest is on professional decision making, particularly the role of planning (in collaboration with other disciplines) in delivering livability of places for all.  It is in this context her current PhD research is pursued, by drawing the theoretical focus and practical observations mainly from western planning systems. This research focus is considered to provide international benchmarking and best practice for urban planning and development in Brunei.

Dr Crystal Legacy

A/Professor Alan March

Advisory Committee:
Professor Nick Low