TRP326 Values, Theory and Ethics in Spatial Planning

Module Coordinator: Madeleine Pill


Tel: 0114 2226183

Room: D20

Module Overview

The central questions for this module are: how can we understand the process of planning in urban environments that are characterised by uncertainty, diversity, conflict and enduring power differentials, and how can planning (and urban policy-making) be done better? 

Drawing on insights from theoretical debates in planning and policy studies the module explores the assumptions underlying spatial planning practice and the challenges confronting practitioners. Firstly, it explores the values underpinning planning to understand why we plan, the nature of the challenges planning seeks to address and the dilemmas and conflicts these generate for planning practice. Secondly, it presents diverse theoretical approaches that planning has taken to address these dilemmas and conflicts. Thirdly, it examines the implications different planning theories have for the values of planning and the ethical frameworks available to planners in deciding how to act.

Particular emphasis is placed on real world examples and the dilemmas faced by individual practitioners in conducting their day-to-day work. The module draws on experiences derived from different (international) work environments and planning contexts.

Study Hours

The University recommends that you spend 200 hours working on a 20-credit module. This will include:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Self study

Module Breakdown

Session 1: Introduction
Session 2: Why have spatial planning?
Session 3: What is Planning's role?
Session 4: Rational, Incremental & Procedural approaches
Session 5: Advocacy, Equity & Political-Economy
Session 6: Seminar - Whose interests should planning serve?
Session 7: The Communicative Turn and it's Critics
Session 8: Towards the Just City?
Session 9: Seminar - Planning, Judgement & Transformative Change
Session 10: Decolonising planning?
Session 11: Spatial Plannin as an Ethical Activity
Session 12: Professional Ethics & Planning


  • Essay - 2000 - 2500 words (100%)

Key Readings

  • Campbell, H.J. (2006) Just planning: the art of situated ethical judgement, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 26(1), 92-106.
  • Fainstein, S. (2010) The Just City, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Marcuse. P. et al. (2009) Searching for the Just City, Routledge: London.

Skills Badging

USP Specialist Skills - Knowledge of different theoretical and ethical frameworks for planning.

Analytical & Problem Solving Skills - Critical assessment of spatial planning practices and alternative approaches.

Self Motivation and Awareness Skills - Capacity to relate frameworks to everyday practice and ethics.