A planning scheme is a land use masterplan that contains land use zones for designated areas in each district of Sabah. There are two types of planning scheme which are District Plan and Local Plan. Generally, a District Plan covers the entire district including its territorial waters (if the district fronts the open sea). Meanwhile, a Local Plan covers growth potential areas within a district such as urban areas i.e. city or town.

Example of a District Plan (Sandakan District Plan)
Example of a District Plan (Sandakan District Plan shown)


Example of a Local Plan (Sandakan Local Plan)
Example of a Local Plan (Sandakan Local Plan shown)

Based on the examples shown, land use zones in the planning schemes come in different colour schemes to guide the types of development activities allowed in areas within the coverage of the planning scheme.



A planning scheme is a land use masterplan for each district in Sabah. Such plan is needed to ensure that any development can be regulated and in accordance with the land use zones contained within the planning scheme. Following are some of the reasons that planning scheme is needed to regulate development in Sabah:

  • To ensure development is planned and regulated properly.
  • To ensure that there is enough land to accommodate the needs of population in the future.
  • To ensure there is no conflict of development.
  • To ensure the welfare needs of the people such as health and safety are secure.
  • To ensure environmentally sensitive areas and natural resources are protected.
  • To earn confidence of developers including foreign investors on the land use development strategy.
  • To ensure that related standards and guidelines can be enforced with ease.



Based on Section 6, Town & Country Planning Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 141), Local Authority in each district has the responsibility of preparing planning schemes in their respective districts. For example, Kota Kinabalu City Hall is responsible for preparing a planning scheme in Kota Kinabalu district. Likewise, as a Local Authority in Nabawan, Nabawan District Council is obliged to prepare a planning scheme in that district. A planning scheme is prepared in the following five (5) phases, as outlined by the Ordinance:



To date, there are at least 25 District Plans and 45 Local Plans that have been prepared as development control guidance.


  1. How long does it take to prepare a planning scheme?
  2. A period of 6 to 12 months is usually set to prepare a planning scheme. However, the preparation depends on factor such as how large the area of the district or the growth potential area is that has to be covered by the planning scheme.

  3. Does Town & Regional Planning Department of Sabah (TRPD) has a role in the preparation of a planning scheme?
  4. Local Authority in each district is responsible in preparing planning schemes. However, TRPD has the role of ensuring the planning schemes prepared by the Local Authority is in accordance with the policies and proposals as outlined in the Structure Plan. Additionally, other matters such as the usage of colour schemes for land use zones are regulated and standardised by TRPD to ensure uniformity. Please also note that TRPD has also been given the mandate by many Local Authorities themselves to prepare planning schemes on their behalf.

  5. How long can the public view the draft planning scheme that has been prepared by the Local Authority?
  6. Duration given for the purpose of public inspection is on the discretion of the Local Authority.

  7. Can the public have their say or opinion about the draft planning scheme that is prepared by the Local Authority?
  8. Yes. Section 7 of the Town & Country Planning Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 141) specifically provides for the draft planning scheme to be exhibited for public inspection. The public can therefore inspect and state their objection (if any) and give suggestions on amendment to the draft planning scheme.

  9. How can I know if there is a planning scheme in my area?
  10. You may contact the Local Authority in your district to get more information regarding the preparation status of the planning scheme in the area concerned.

  11. How long does a planning scheme comes into enforcement?
  12. A planning scheme will be in force for 5 years. In other words, a planning scheme is usually reviewed for every 5 years taking into consideration changes such as latest statistical information and Government policies and proposals, particularly as outlined in the Structure Plan.

  13. I wish to develop my land. Should I refer to the planning scheme first before starting any development?
  14. Yes. You are encouraged to know about the land use zoning that is enforced in your land to ensure any development planned complies with the planning scheme in the area.

  15. Are planning schemes comes attached with other documents?
  16. Every planning scheme is accompanied with a supporting document that contains additional guidelines or conditions about planning in the areas covered under the planning scheme.

  17. How can I get a copy of the planning scheme?
  18. A planning scheme which has been declared as Government Gazette (Warta Kerajaan) under Section 10 of Town & Country Planning Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 141) will have the copies be distributed for public inspection under the discretion of the Local Authority.