Part of a wider doctoral thesis, this paper examines issues around flooding and rapid urban development in Jakarta, specifically the manner in which the former has influenced the spatial growth of the city over time. It takes a historic-institutionalism perspective within the context of changing government responses to flood management, where previous approaches failed take into consideration existing local ecology, flood patterns and natural drainage systems. Jakarta is slowly moving towards more sustainable and resilient approaches to flood management through pilot programmes aimed at reclaiming or restoring water bodies while creating urban green space to assist with water absorption. Despite this local government has not incorporated sustainable flood management systems or mitigation measures into the formal planning system. This paper shows how flooding has influenced spatial development and urban morphology in the city historically, which has led the city administration to the realisation that new approaches are required. The methodology includes document and literature research, GIS and satellite based mapping and imagery to determine spatial development patterns and where additional mitigation measures may be required, as well as flooding and drainage documentation. The paper reveals a series of potential strategies for the initial stages of planning policy implementation and a potential framework for developing planning-incorporated measures at the wider scale across Jakarta’s affected areas. This study has wide implications for a number of large developing cities facing multiple development challenges in addition to flooding in the global south.