The physical planning process is no different from other planning processes such as economic planning and social planning in that, it is cyclical.
The process is a dynamic one. Eight stages are involved.
1. Terms of Reference
This is the first stage in the planning process involving the formulation of the parameters, which are to govern the ensuing plan. These parameters include the aims (goals) and objectives, which are guidelines within which the anticipated plan must function and to which it must relate. The "goals" are the broad guidelines while "objectives" are less general and more tangible.
2. Information Gathering
No plan can be developed without relevant information. Thus, information has to be gathered in accordance with the defined terms of reference, aim "goals" and objectives in order to ensure relevance.
3. Analysis of information
Analysis of data collected will expose problems. With this, the planner can better assess the situation within the adopted terms of reference and see the extent to which the anticipated plan will have to address itself to the problems, shortcomings or obstacles which imperil goal achievement, and the plan's potential efficacy.
This stage is a necessary prerequisite to the formulation of policies from which recommendations evolve.
4. Formulation of Policies
A "policy" is a statement in which the adopted aims "goals" and objectives are made more tangible for the process of implementation to begin.
Recommendations are statements of what should be done through the operation of the plan to achieve the aims, objectives and policies.
Recommendations do not say how the aims, objectives and policies are to be achieved so the formulation of strategies (or a modus operandi) becomes necessary. Strategies define the methods, which should be employed to ensure that the recommendations achieve the stated aims, objectives and policies. A number of strategies can be developed to effect a single recommendation so the strategies most suitable to the stated aims have to be selected. Implementation is the next step and for this there are a number of steps to be taken.
Implementation of this Physical Plan cannot take place by the mere fact of its existence. Efforts must be made to channel development into areas for which it is recommended and the institutional and legal framework by which it is to be realized must exist to ensure that resources are effectively deployed. Clear guidelines must be given to the many agencies and private organizations, which will be involved in its effectuation and monitoring, must be done to keep development projects in line with proposals. Before control and monitoring can take place, programs and projects must be identified and schedules worked out for each.
This is the final and most essential stage of the Physical Planning process particularly because of its cyclical nature. The "monitoring" stage serves as a test for future plans, and measures the extent to which the plan is successful in the achievement of the aims and objectives. It also identifies inherent problems and shortcomings so that the planner may be cognizant of, and able to avoid them in the preparation of future plans.