Dr Julian Dobson

Julian Dobson, PhD

Floor 10, The Arts Tower

email : j.r.dobson@sheffield.ac.uk






I’m interested in how we can create better places for everyone. I’m curious to understand how change happens, and the links and fractures between research, policy, and practice. Through better understandings of place and landscape we can discover vital clues in identifying the building blocks of a good society.

Dr Julian dobson


I am a writer, commentator and researcher with a focus on creating better places for everyone. I am currently working with the Department of Landscape on the NERC-funded project, Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature. I am author of How to Save Our Town Centres (Policy Press, 2015) and was the founding editor of the regeneration magazine New Start.

I have given evidence to parliamentary inquiries, written for a wide range of academic and general audiences, and spoken at national and international conferences. I'm especially interested in how change happens and who benefits from it, with a focus on transitions to an environmentally and socially sustainable society. My PhD, with the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, focused on institutional change and sustainability transitions.


Research Interests

Place, policy and community: I am interested in urban settlements and how they can be more socially just, sustainable and inclusive. My specific interests include urban regeneration and the built environment (I founded and edited the regeneration journal New Start); the role of the town centre (my book, How to Save Our Town Centres, was published by Policy Press in 2015); and the social and cultural value of green spaces and the natural environment (through my current work with the Department of Landscape but also through previous consultancy work with organisations including Groundwork UK and The Mersey Forest). I am interested in how the materiality of local spaces impacts on their social and political development through processes of appropriation, access, neglect and loss.

Institutional and societal change: I am interested in how and why change happens, or fails to happen, with a specific interest in the evolution of aspirational and inspirational local initiatives. My PhD focused on the role of three urban 'anchor institutions' in advancing transitions to a low-carbon society. More widely, I have been interested in the impact of community-based initiatives and the prefigurative politics of small-scale projects.

Evidence, policy and practice: My professional history in journalism, consultancy, and current academic research, bridges the worlds of academia, policy and practice. I am constantly seeking both to understand and to question conventional understandings of how these links work. I do this both through my research interests (including my current research at the Department of Landscape) and in my wider professional life.

Funded Research Projects

Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature

I am currently supporting the IWUN project by researching practitioners’ understandings of how green spaces can contribute to mental wellbeing, and by working with practitioner and stakeholder groups to translate research findings into practical guidance and information.

Full Publications


  • Dobson J (2015) How to save our town centres: A radical agenda for the future of high streets. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles