Spatial planning integrates sustainable development into land use planning and development with the aims of creating a more rational territorial organisation of land uses and the linkages between them, to balance demands for development with the need to protect the environment and to achieve social and economic development objectives.
The meaning of Spatial Planning in French is “Aménagement du territoire intégré”. The Guiding Principles for a Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent prescribe that a sustainable planning system should have four governing parameters namely (1) democratic (2) comprehensive (3) functional and (4) long term. These imply  that spatial planning should  advocate (1) a vertical integration from Central Government to Local Government (2) a horizontal integration among the pillars namely economic, environmental, socio-cultural considerations (3) a diagonal integration among the various sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, agriculture etc and (4) integration of public participation through the principle of subsidiarity, while taking into account the existence of a regional consciousness based on common values, culture and interests without overlooking the institutional arrangements of the country state. The integration of Sustainability Assessment and the need for public participation in land use planning decisions has been further endorsed by the Rio de Janeiro Declaration and Agenda 21. Hence spatial planning is a way to achieve sustainable development, recognizing that sustainability is the objective and sustainable development the process.
Based on international practices, spatial planning: articulates the region’s role in a country;
articulates the long-term (20 – 30 years) vision / strategic direction for the region and its communities, including broad objectives; visually illustrates how the region may develop in the future, including the sequencing of growth and infrastructure provision;
provides an evidence-base to support decision-making, including trends, opportunities and constraints facing the city region; translates this strategic direction into a set of policies, priorities, programmes and land allocation together with resources to deliver them; sets out a development strategy for how broad policy goals involving land use, transport, other infrastructure, and environmental management can be achieved; involves effective participation (including community participation) leading to confidence in plans and decisions; identifies and guides the location of critical infrastructure services and associated investment (e.g. open space, water and wastewater services, transport, etc.); identifies the existing, and guides the future, location and mix of residential, business and industrial activities within specific geographic areas; identifies significant ecological areas of the region that should be protected from development;
gives direction to and effectively aligns the implementation, regulation and funding of plans; 
has the capacity to integrate otherwise competing policy goals and provide opportunities for coherent and combined investment and regulation; and acts as an information and coordination mechanism between the spatial planning agency and other parties (e.g. central government, the private sector, infrastructure providers) that provide services, infrastructure, and other investment, to enable discussion and agreement on the timing, location and outcomes.
Another point of reference is “Our Common Future” which prescribes the following favourable conditions in the pursuit of sustainable development: a political system that secures citizen participation in decision-making, an economic system that is able to generate surpluses and technical knowledge on a self-reliant and sustained basis, a social system that provides for solutions for the tensions arising from disharmonious development, a production system that respects the obligation to preserve the ecological base for development, a technological system that can search continuously for new solutions, an international system that fosters sustainable patterns of trade and finance and an administrative system that is flexible and has the capacity for self correction.
The framework for the present spatial planning in Mauritius is contained in the National Development Strategy (NDS 2003) prepared by Halcrow which sets guidelines for sector development and local plans policies for the nine administrative districts, based  on international spatial planning practices.
The major question that needs to be addressed today is: To what extent, in our land development in Mauritius, are we adhering to the international spatial planning practices that safeguard sustainable development?
If we are, then fine. If we are not, then we need to identify and address the constraints and gaps so as to redress the situation. This can then lead us safely to Sustainable Development.
The article is part of the various issues examined in Mr P. P. Mauree’s PhD Thesis entitled “Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Sustainable development in Spatial Planning: Mauritius as a Case Study”.