Dr Aidan While
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
+44 114 222 6184
Full contact details
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Geography and Planning Building
Having studied for a BA and MA in English and Art History, I discovered urban planning through a studentship for the Masters in Civic Design (RTPI-accredited) at the University of Liverpool (1992-4).
My research and teaching combines interests in environmental and climate policy, urban technology and future cities and the politics of planning in the UK and internationally. Those interests are reflected in current research on the social, environmental and urban impact of advances in robotics and automation, including new forms of climate engineering and automated ecological management.
I am co-director of the University of Sheffield’s interdisciplinary Urban Institute and leader of its research theme on Urban Automation and Robotics.
I have been Associate Editor for the Journal of Planning Theory and Practice and I am currently an editorial board member for Town Planning Review and a member of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Policy Review College. I am currently Dapeng Visiting Scholar at the University of Jinan, China (Shenzhen campus).
I have successfully supervised 20 PhD students.
- Research interests
My research encompasses interests in environmental/climate policy, urban technology, the politics of planning and issues of growth management in the UK and internationally.
1. Environmental/climate policy
I am interested in the factors that influence responses to environmental and climate change, including political and citizen resistance and conflict with social and economic interests. I am particularly interested in questions of environmental justice (who gains, who loses) from policies that do or not address environmental and climate challenges.
Castan-Broto V, Robin E and While A (2020) Climate Urbanism Routledge: London
While A and Whitehead M (2014) ‘Cities, urbanisation and climate change’ Urban Studies, special edition on Cities and Climate Change 50 (7) 1325-1331
While A, Jonas AEG and Gibbs D (2010) ‘From sustainable development to carbon control: eco-state restructuring and the politics of urban and regional development’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (1) 76 – 93
2. Robotics and the infrastructures of everyday life
I am the leader for the Sheffield Urban Institute’s research theme on Urban Automation and Robotics. We are at the forefront internationally of examining the impact of robotics in the public realm through drones, Autonomous Vehicles, delivery and service robotic and other forms of automation, with funded research undertaken in China, the USA, Africa and Japan as well as the UK. I work closely with robotic engineers to understand and explore future possibilities for urban robotic restructuring and how they might be managed and regulated in the public interest.
Lockhart A, While A, Marvin S, Kovacic M, Odendaal N, Alexander C (2021) Making space for drones: The contested reregulation of airspace in Tanzania and Rwanda, Transactions IBG, forthcoming
While A, Marvin S, Kovacic M (2020) Urban robotic experimentation: San Francisco, Tokyo, Dubai Urban Studies
Macrorie R, Marvin S, and While A. (2019) Robotics and automation in the city: A research agenda. Urban Geography
3. The politics of planning
I have a core interest in the role of planning regulation in shaping urban and regional futures, with a particular interest in government-citizen relations and challenges for planning in managing growth.
Inch A, Dunning R, While A, Hickman, H and Payne, S. (2020) ‘Financial incentives and the mediation of planning conflict’ Environment and Planning C
While A, Jonas A and Gibbs D (2013) ‘The competition state, city-regions and the territorial politics of economic growth facilitation’, Environment and Planning A 45 (10) 2379–2398
4. Decarbonisation and the future of work
I have a long-standing interest in employment policy and the potential to address inequalities through intervention around work. This is reflected in my Joseph Rowntree research Major development projects: connecting people in poverty to jobs and is being taken forward in research on the socio-spatial implications associated with employment change through climate policy.
- Territorial Policy and Governance. Routledge.
- Finding the niche: A review of market assessment methodologies for rural electrification with small scale wind power. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 133.
- The urban bioeconomy: extracting value from the ecological and biophysical. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. View this article in WRRO
- Urban robotic experimentation: San Francisco, Tokyo and Dubai. Urban Studies. View this article in WRRO
- Containing COVID-19 in China: AI and the robotic restructuring of future cities. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(2), 238-241.
- Planning control and the politics of soft densification. Town Planning Review, 91(3), 305-324. View this article in WRRO
- Empowering householders: Identifying predictors of intentions to use a home energy management system in the United Kingdom. Energy Policy, 139. View this article in WRRO
- 'The object is to change the heart and soul' : financial incentives, planning and opposition to new housebuilding in England. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. View this article in WRRO
- Robotics and automation in the city : a research agenda. Urban Geography. View this article in WRRO
- Households in place: socio-spatial (dis)advantage in energy-carbon restructuring. European Planning Studies. View this article in WRRO
- Competitive urbanism and the limits to smart city innovation: The UK Future Cities initiative. Urban Studies, 54(2), 501-519. View this article in WRRO
- Who writes for Planning Theory & Practice and why?. Planning Theory and Practice, 17(3), 319-322.
- A hybrid actuator disc - full rotor CFD methodology for modelling the effects of wind turbine wake interactions on performance. Renewable Energy, 80, 525-537. View this article in WRRO
- Editorial matters. Planning Theory & Practice, 15(4), 447-450.
- Engineering and energy yield: The missing dimension of wind turbine assessment. Energy Policy, 65, 245-250. View this article in WRRO
- Cities, Urbanisation and Climate Change. Urban Studies, 50(7), 1325-1331.
- The competition state, city-regions, and the territorial politics of growth facilitation. Environment and Planning A, 45(10), 2379-2398.
- Resisting the Growth Clamp. Planning Theory & Practice, 13(4), 503-506.
- The future of sustainable cities: critical reflections - Edited by John Flint and Mike Raco. Area, 44(3), 392-393.
- Locally Manufactured Micro Wind Turbines for Rural Electrification: A Developing Countries Perspective.. Energy Policy, 43(0), 173-183.
- The new urban politics as a politics of carbon control. Urban Studies, 48(12), 2537-2554.
- Place narratives and heritage management: the modernist legacy in Manchester. AREA, 43(1), 4-13.
- Managing infrastructural and service demands in new economic spaces: The new territorial politics of collective provision. Regional Studies, 44(2), 183-200.
- From sustainable development to carbon control: Eco-state restructuring and the politics of urban and regional development. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(1), 76-93.
- Urban World Heritage Sites and the problem of authenticity. Cities, 26(6), 349-358.
- Ontology and the conservation of built heritage. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 27(4), 721-737.
- Exeter and the question of Thomas Sharp’s physical legacy. Planning Perspectives, 24(1), 77-97.
- Climate change and planning: Carbon control and spatial regulation. Town Planning Review, 79(1), vii-xiii.
- The State and the Controversial Demands of Cultural Built Heritage: Modernism, Dirty Concrete, and Postwar Listing in England. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 34(4), 645-663.
- Governing nature conservation: The European Union Habitats Directive and conflict around estuary management. Environment and Planning A, 39(2), 339-358.
- Modernism vs Urban Renaissance: Negotiating Post-war Heritage in English City Centres. Urban Studies, 43(13), 2399-2419.
- The environment and the entrepreneurial city: searching for the urban ‘sustainability fix’ in Manchester and Leeds. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 28(3), 549-569.
- State modernisation and local strategic selectivity after Local Agenda 21: evidence from three northern English localities. Policy & Politics, 32(2), 151-168.
- Unblocking the City? Growth Pressures, Collective Provision, and the Search for New Spaces of Governance in Greater Cambridge, England. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 36(2), 279-304.
- Locating art worlds: London and the making of Young British art. Area, 35(3), 251-263.
- Globalization, state restructuring and innovation in European water management systems: Reflections from England and Wales. EUROPEAN PLANNING STUDIES, 9(6), 721-737.
- Filling the Gaps in Redundancy Support: Lessons from Leeds. Regional Studies, 35(4), 363-367.
- A new space for sustainable development? Regional environmental governance in the North West and the West Midlands of England. Town Planning Review, 71(4), 395-413.
- Accountability and Regional Governance. Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy Policy Unit, 14(4), 329-345.
- Labour Market Policy as Flexible Welfare: Prototype Employment Zones and the New Workfarism. Regional Studies, 34(7), 669-680.
- From Corporate City to Citizens City?. Urban Affairs Review, 35(1), 3-23.
- A new Agenda for governance? Agenda 21 and the prospects for holistic local decision making. Local Government Studies, 23(4), 111-123.
- Making space for drones: the contested reregulation of airspace in Tanzania and Rwanda. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.
- Competitive urbanism and the limits to smart city innovation: the UK Future Cities initiative. Urban Studies.
- Conclusions: Three Modalities for a New Climate Urbanism, Climate Urbanism (pp. 243-252). Springer International Publishing
- Introduction: Climate Urbanism—Towards a Research Agenda, Climate Urbanism (pp. 1-11). Springer International Publishing
- Carbon regulation and low-carbon urban restructuring In Hodson M & Marvin S (Ed.), After Sustainable Cities? (pp. 41-58). London: Routledge.
- Cities and Low Carbon Transitions Routledge
- Book reviews. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 12(2), 223-233.
- Book Review: Three Decades of Enterprise Culture: Entrepreneurship, Economic Regeneration and Public Policy. Urban Studies, 46(8), 1749-1751.
- Book review: Culture, urbanism and planning. Edited by J. Monclús and M. Guàrdia. Aldershot: Ashgate. 2006. xix + 293 pp. £55.00 hardback. ISBN: 0754646238. cultural geographies, 15(4), 521-522.
- The practice of modernism: modern architects and urban transformation, 1954-1972. URBAN MORPHOLOGY, 12(1), 65-67.
- Book Review: Cosmopolis II. Mongrel cities in the 21st century. Progress in Human Geography, 29(3), 402-404.
- Devolution in practice: Public policy differences within the UK. REGIONAL STUDIES, 37(8), 872-873.
- City of revolution: Restructuring Manchester. URBAN STUDIES, 40(10), 2106-2107.
Conference proceedings papers
- Post-installation analysis of locally manufactured small wind turbines: Case studies in Peru. 2012 IEEE Third International Conference on Sustainable Energy Technologies (ICSET), 24 September 2012 - 27 September 2012.
- Modern movement conservation as progressive practice: Byker and british welfare state housing. Proceedings of the 10th International DOCOMOMO Conference - The Challenge of Change: Dealing with the Legacy of the Modern Movement (pp 55-60)
- Changing governance structures and the environment: economy–environment relations at the local and regional scales. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, Vol. 4(2) (pp 123-138)
- Urban Robotics and Automation: Critical Challenges, International Experiments and Transferable Lessons for the UK
- View this article in WRRO Attitudinal research on financial payments to reduce opposition to new homes
- View this article in WRRO The impact of the New Homes Bonus on attitudes and behaviour
- Research group
I am Primary Supervisor for the following PhD students:
Jiaxi Yang, Digital villages and state strategies of rural development in China
Bei Chen, Automation and urban development in China: Xiong'an New Area
Hakjin Lee, UK neighbourhood planning after the plan
Ryan Belllinson, Co-production and the risky politics of climate urbanism: embedded research in Greater Manchester, UK
I welcome applications for PhD research on topics related to my main research interests, including: planning for climate change; low-carbon policy; the relationship between planning and economic development; growth management and sustainable development.
- Teaching activities
My teaching seeks to promote (and provoke) critical debate about the processes and outcomes of decision-making and their potential social and environmental impacts. Emphasis is placed on helping students develop an appreciation of policy choices and the possibility for alternatives.
The intention is to equip graduates with the skills, knowledge and understanding to make a difference in their future careers. This combines a deep understanding the underlying logics of planning in the present with the skills and knowledge needed to anticipate and respond creatively to change in the future.
An important part of my teaching approach is to create space for discussion and debate through workshops, seminars and student presentations.
In 2007 I was awarded a University of Sheffield Senate Award for innovation in interdisciplinary environmental teaching.
I currently teach the following modules:
TRP 468 Development Planning
TRP 461/6306 Planning Law and Development Control
TRP 329/618 Transport and Infrastructure
TRP 451/651 Managing Cities: Seoul Field Trip