TRP470 Planning for Informality

Module Coordinator: Dr Philipp Horn


Tel: 0114 222 6938

Room: D19

Module Overview

The overall aim of this module is to critically examine informality, with a particular but not exclusive focus on cities of the Global South. The module relies on a mixture of lectures and seminars, with the latter focusing on more detailed discussion of relevant topics and enabling student-led group work. It explores patterns and causes of informality and discusses the strengths and limitations of a range of theoretical approaches. It also analyses the success of different real-world urban planning responses (understood in broad terms), including government-led, donor-led and community-focused ones, in addressing key urban issues in the context of informality.

Study Hours

The University recommends that you spend 150 hours working on a 15-credit module. This will include:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Self study
  • Group Work

Module Breakdown

Week 1: Introduction: What is informality, and why does it matter?
Week 2: Conceptualising informality (from past to present)
Week 3: Economic informality: outlining the phenomenon and how it is studied
Week 4: Economic informality: responses
Week 5: Spatial informality: outlining the phenomenon and how it is studied
Week 6: Spatial informality: responses
Week 7: Political informality: phenomenon and responses
Week 8: Informality in the Global North
Week 9: One-to-one Essay drop ins
Week 10: One-to-one Essay drop ins


  • Individual essay - 2500 words (100%)

Key Readings

    • Lombard, M. and P. Meth (2016) 'Informalities' in M. Jayne and K. Ward, Urban Theory: Critical perspectives, Oxford: Routledge pp. 158 – 171
    • Roy, A. (2009) ‘Why India cannot plan its cities: Informality, insurgence and the idiom of urbanization.’ Planning theory 8(1): 76-87.
    • Goodfellow T (2016) Urban Informality and the State: A Relationship of Perpetual Negotiation In Grugel J & Hammett D (Ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of International Development, London: Palgrave, pp. 207-225.

Skills Badging

Research Skills - Students will learn how to describe the key characteristics of informality, such as spatial, economic, cultural, environmental, political, social and historical/temporal factors, with particular focus on cities of the Global South. They will analyse and explain these characteristics, with reference to a range of theoretical approaches.

Communication Skills - Through group work in class and a final essay, students are expected to develop presentation skills and express complex issues orally and in writing.

Analytical & Problem Solving Skills - During seminars, group work and in their final essay, students will demonstrate theoretical and practical knowledge on informality in relation to selected cities. Students will also engage with alternative representations of informality (ie fiction, film, oral histories) and recognise and evaluate different real-world urban planning responses, such as government-led, donor-led and community-focused ones, that address key urban issues in a context of informality.