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Gated communities are considered by many South Africans as a necessity – a place to stay in a safer environment in the context of high crime rates. At the same time, these developments can also challenge planning and development goals towards greater integration and accessibility. This article considers the views of planning masters’ students related to gated communities and the inherent tensions and presence of inconsistent attitudes prevailing within the students. This reflects the growing dichotomy between the planning ideal and practice in South Africa and raises a number of questions for planning education. With reference to the different roles of planning theory, the discusion explores different ways to read and interpret these tensions and attitudes and redirect planning education not only to reflect this, but also to effectively utilise it in an attempt to bridge the gap between normative visions and contextual realities.