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Planning, People and Place 

Examining ideas and practices at the heart of ‘planning’ and the impacts on people and places

We share a strong belief that planning can make a positive difference to the way we all live. In our research, we engage with planning practices in various settings and seek to better understand the politics, relationships and cultures that inform planning in action. We have a strong interest in the way planning professionals implement the policies and frameworks that constitute planning systems across the world – and hence, how planning knowledge is transformed into actions designed to make better places. We also examine the ideas that underpin ‘planning’ as a socially just discipline/project and, in doing so, seek to contribute to current debates on the value and role of planning in contemporary society.

From this fundamental concern with planning practices our focus widens to consider the impact of policy and governance frameworks at a range of scales (local, regional, national and international). New forms of policy development and governance are emerging across states and societies, including increasing levels of engagement with those citizens who are most closely affected by specific policies. The changing relationship between the state and civil society raises interesting and important questions about the representation and legitimacy of people, practices and knowledge within the policy-making process. In our research, we explore different forms of civil engagement in governance practices as well as the challenges of governance across scales and sectors. We also evaluate policy implementation processes and seek to examine the (often unintended) consequences of public policy-making.

Featured projects

The value of planning

Contrary to the views of some critics, planning can and does play a positive and proactive role in sustainable economic growth and development. Our research has helped to set the agenda for a vital new programme of activity that is being supported and taken forward by the RTPI. Policy-makers, practitioners and researchers all have a role in maximising the value of planning - and helping to make better places.

Read 'The Value of Planning' report.

Find out more about Craig Watkins' research

Working in the public interest

In the post-war era, decisions about urban development in the UK were justified with the idea that state-employed planners served a unified public interest. Yet, today nearly half of all UK Chartered Planners work for private firms and private sector involvement in 'local' planning continues to grow.

Our research focusses on - the extent and nature of private sector involvement in planning; the implications of this for planners understanding of their professional roles; and the consequences for traditional justifications of planning activities as in the 'public interest'.

Find out more about the Working in the public interest project

Find out more about Malcolm Tait's research.

Developing new approaches to 'plan out' poverty

In recent years there has been a call for a rediscovery of social town planning, particularly as a response to increasing socio-spatial inequalities across the UK. Working with the Town and Country Planning Association, we have been exploring how participatory planning processes can shape more effective responses to the challenges facing deprived communities and, in doing so, help to promote greater inclusion and empowerment.

Find out more about the TCPA's 'Planning out Poverty' programme.

Find out more about Lee Crooke's and Andy Inch's research

Featured publications

Putting localism in place: conservative images of the good community and the contradictions of planning reform in England

Recent analyses of the localism agenda have often focussed on how it plays out in distinct localities. In this paper, Malcolm Tait and Andy Inch take a different approach, interpreting how the language of community and place in English politics has been mobilized in reforms of the English planning system.

Managing political space: authority, marginlaised people's agency and governance in West Bengal

How does political decentralisation affet the ways in which authority is exercised? And, what spaces does it leave open for poor people's agency? Glyn Williams explores these questions in this paper within the context of West Bengal, and considers the implications for programmes of governance reform being pursued across the global South.

Ordinary citizens and the political cultures of planning: In search of the subject of a new democratic ethos

What is required of the citizen to make planning more democratic? Andy Inch explores this question in order to highlight some of the key challenges for democratising planning in theory and practice.