This paper surveys the problems of metropolitan planning in Western democracies. It notes the abolition of metropolitan and regional planning bodies in the UK and considers the record of metropolitan planning in other countries. It analyses the current fiscal and other constraints upon effective metropolitan planning. Despite the growing emphasis upon 'urban containment', metropolitan areas continue to expand in widening orbits. The failures of planning in the inner cities are analysed, and some remedies are suggested. The limited physical capacity and the inevitable loss of manufacturing employment in these inner areas mean that a further instalment of new towns is becoming desirable. In particular, metropolitan planning needs to widen the opportunities of the less privileged and to provide for a massive renewal of urban infrastructure. The scope of physical planning has always been limited, and has worked through successive linkages with health, housing, transportation and environmental programmes. Comprehensive metropolitan planning depends upon new political alliances, the use of financial incentives as well as planning controls, and the strengthening of local government. In particular, it is essential for planning bodies to capture development values in land, so as to pay the high costs of balanced urban renewal. European experience has many lessons to offer on this critical issue. Urban planners need to come out of their defensive shells and accept their political responsibilities for making planning efficient and equitable.