Professor Malcolm Tait

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Professor of Planning
+44 114 222 6919

Full contact details

Professor Malcolm Tait
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Room D11b
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

I studied Geography at Durham University and went on to do an MA in Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield in 1997. I completed my PhD in Town and Regional Planning at Sheffield in 2000.

I was appointed as Research Associate at Cardiff University on the ESRC-funded project ‘The Urban Village: A real or imagined contribution to sustainable development’. I returned to Sheffield in 2001 when I was made Lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009, and Professor of Planning in January 2016.

Research interests

My research focusses on three main areas, as follows:

Trust and Planning

I am interested in mapping the importance of trust in planning and in the work of planners. I have explored this in a number of directions, including the extent to which a `crisis of trust´ exists in planning as an activity and what implications this has for the planning profession.

I am also interested in mapping the significance and form of trust relations in the day-to-day work of planners. I have carried out an ethnographic study of planners in a local authority in the South West of England to explore how relations of trust are constructed in the contemporary local government environment. In particular, the extent to which performance management regimes (targets, indicators) affect how trust is built by different actors in planning has been explored.

Urban Villages

I have also written and researched on urban villages (with Mike Biddulph and Bridget Franklin). This work explored the value of the urban village concept and its application in practice examining the means by which the urban village concept has arisen as a noteworthy model for development. The project also assessed the practicality of implementing the urban village model, and used case studies in London, Birmingham and Merseyside to evaluate developments termed 'urban villages'.

Theorising Urban Intervention

Work to understand and theorise how planners and others intervene in processes of urban development springs from my work on urban villages. I am currently exploring theoretical issues associated with urban intervention in collaboration with Ole B Jensen at Aalborg University, Denmark. Drawing on examples of urban villages, Business Improvement Districts and other sources, we have explored issues such as the use and dissemination of models of urban intervention and the role of spatial re-presentation in managing urban change (see Tait and Jensen, 2007).

Further work develops the notion of 'travelling ideas' and how they are materialised in distinct locations through professionalised discourses. I have also worked on issues of citizen participation in urban regeneration through the INTERREG IIIB project: Vitalizing City Centres through Integrated Spatial Planning.

Finally, I am interested in how plans are constructed, interpreted and used in managing urban development. Work with Aidan While investigates the significance of historical plans in shaping current urban redevelopment (While and Tait, 2009) and the ontology of conserving the built environment (Tait and While, 2009).

Current and Recent Research Projects



  • Schoneboom A, Slade J, Tait M & Vigar G (2022) What Town Planners Do Exploring Planning Practices and the Public Interest Through Workplace Ethnographies. Policy Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


Book reviews

Conference proceedings papers

  • Xiao J, Kang J, Tait M & Henshaw V (2015) Smellscapes in urban intermodal transit spaces: understanding pleasantness as a concept for design in an English context. Proceedings of the International Conference on Changing Cities 2: Spatial, Design, Landscape & Social-economic Dimensions RIS download Bibtex download


  • Robinson D, Archer T, Green S, Wilson I, Leather D, McCarthy L & Tait M (2018) Older People's Housing, Care and Support Needs in Greater Cambridge, 2017-2036 RIS download Bibtex download

Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries

  • Biddulph M, Tait MA & Franklin B (2010) Urban Villages. In Encyclopedia of Urban Studies. California: Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

PhD Supervision

I am Primary supervisor for the following PhD students:

  • Helen Brown, Housing and ageing
  • Carlo Chan, Silver-lining our future: contextualising age-friendly models in London and Hong Kong
  • Vanessa Lo, Housing and ageing: a case study in the Peak District
  • Kirsten Ward, Green Belt policy and politics in England

Interested in PhD study?

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students who have interests in:

  • the profession of planning, including its changing role in new (local authority) governance contexts;
  • the role and values of private sector planning professionals; and,
  • urban intervention, including how models and concepts get used by planners and others to shape places. 
Teaching interests

All my teaching seeks to link how we think about planning with how we act as planners. Understanding the concepts that underpin many planning programmes is crucial to realising the possibilities of creating better planning responses.

Much of my teaching involves project based work, opening space for students to respond to real life situations and to reflect on the actions that might be taken in response to these. This includes work with masters students to recreate the decision making situations of local government, and work to prepare plans and designs for areas in Sheffield.

Undergraduate teaching focuses on using real life examples of plans, documents, and policies to explore the broader questions that underpin the activity of planning.

Teaching activities

I currently teach the following modules:

  • TRP 133, Development, Planning and the State
  • TRP 6401, Spatial Planning Systems