Town planning in Hong Kong is guided by an ordinance established more than six decades ago and altered very little since. The flaws in this law, and in the planning process in general, are well known among the city's architects and planners. These include lack of public access to most of the Town Planning Board's meetings and a structure that almost ensures that the board is simply an extension of the government's planning department rather than a body representing the wishes and needs of the broader community. Two attempts have already been made in the past decade to revise the law. Suggestions have included opening meetings to the public and removing the requirements that the chairman of the board be the permanent secretary for housing, planning and lands and that the vice-chairman be the government's director of planning. Both attempts at comprehensive revision failed because of a lack of consensus. The government has resorted to introducing piecemeal reforms through a number of separate but smaller bills. Now, the Institute of Planners is calling for the proposal for open meetings to be revived. Given the recent public interest in the issue of harbour reclamation, the idea should be given serious thought, and the opportunity should also be taken to review other measures that were once thought to be too controversial. In a paper the institute submitted to the government during the attempt to revise the planning ordinance in 2000, the group made other suggestions that would help the planning board serve the public more effectively. One was to make the board more independent by not having the planning department provide administrative support. Another was to allow for public consultation on government plans referred to as the territorial development strategy and the sub-regional development strategies. These are blueprints the government uses to make its zoning and development decisions, and public input on this level could be the key to avoiding the type of controversy now dogging the government's plans to reclaim and develop large parts of the harbour. Many large cities around the world make their planning decisions in full view of the public, as the planning process is carried out by elected city councils. So Hong Kong will find it hard to continue to justify its opaque and unaccountable planning methods. To its credit, the planning department is making strides in informing and consulting the public. Much information about development plans can be found on the department's website - including details of the hotly debated Central and Wan Chai reclamation projects. The next, and very necessary, steps will be to make the Town Planning Board a truly independent body and to allow members of the public a voice in development of their city.