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Current Research Projects

Rural Development

From December 2011 to April 2012
Project Leader(s): Professor Mark Shucksmith
Staff: Hilary Talbot
Sponsors: Carnegie UK Trust

There are two main elements to the work:

  • A review of progress against the recommendations set by the commission for Rural Community Development between 2007 and 2011.
  • An analysis of future direction of rural development.

The review will be a desk-based research exercise to review and analyse government documents and reports from key stakeholders across the UK and Ireland.

There will also be an analysis of the future direction of rural development. In particular, it will consider:

  • How do current debates on the role of civic society affect rural development across the UK and Ireland?
  • How will the reduction in public spending affect rural development?
  • What impact are unemploymnet and economic inactivity having in rural areas?
  • What infrastructure needs to be put in place to create jobs/employment in rural areas?


Planning, Urban Management and Heritage (PUMAH)

From February 2012 to January 2016
Project Leader(s): John Pendlebury
Staff: Tim Townshend, Andrew Law, Ali Madanipour, Simin Davoudi, Gerard Corsane, Ian Thompson, Suzanne Speak, Rose Gilroy, Paola Michiliano, Yun Dai
Sponsors: EU - FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IRSES
Partners: Groningen University, The Italian National Research Council, Middle East Technical University, Politecnico di Milano, Wuhan University, Peking University, Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology

The overall aim of this project is to develop a joint networking and advanced research programme on critical issues of planning, management and urban heritage that will strengthen the research partnership between Newcastle University, Groningen University, The Italian National Research Council, Middle East Technical University, Politecnico di Milano, Wuhan University, Peking University and Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology.

This aim will be achieved by short and longer-term periods of staff exchanges between the European and the Chinese partners and networking activities between the participating institutions. The ultimate goal of this project is to achieve more rapid progress in advancing current knowledge, both conceptually and in terms of practical strategies of management, of the challenges of managing heritage as part of a wider process of spatial planning in the very different contexts provided by Europe and China.

Its focus is the role of heritage in continuity and change in the city. Urban areas are the critical sphere of investigation as it is cities and urban regions that are subject to the greatest pressures for change and transformation and conflict and potential complementarity with heritage protection most acute. The project will support internationally recognised research, international networking, high quality academic publications, including at least one book, specifically from the project, knowledge transfer and will lead to proposals for further funded projects.

In this way we are planning to establish a long-term research cooperation between the participating institutions.


Hexham Abbey - Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Technology Project

Project Leader(s): Adam Sharr
Staff: John Pendlebury, Neveen Hamza, Simin Davoudi
Sponsors: Hexham Abbey (Main Sponsor - Northumberland County Council)

The project will explore the extent to which the Abbey buildings might support deployment of renewable energy and low carbon technologies. This is not uncontroversial as the building is Grade 1 Listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

This element of the pilot project will build from some initial technical feasibility work undertaken by post-graduate students at Newcastle University. It will explore in detail the actual and perceived barriers to deployment of new technologies on such a sensitive building by working with a range of interests including the relevant statutory bodies and special interest groups.

Project Objectives
  • develop a feasibility study for the installation of renewable energy on the Abbey and its associated buildings
  • further develop the photovoltaic cell of the Newcastle University 2010 research work
  • a location analysis (on the Abbey and Carnaby Buildings)
  • evaluation of reently approved renewable energy schemes on churches elsewhere in the UK
  • evaluation of potential funding sources to support installation of renewable energy systems
  • consultation with the Diocese, Planners and English Heritage on acceptability of the proposals
  • local consultation within Hexham - congregation and beyond
  • to seek to maximise potential income from the national Feed In Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive schemes


Territorial Governance - Best Practices for New Perspectives (TANGO)

From September 2011 to February 2014
Project Leader(s): Professor Simin Davoudi
Staff: Professor Ali Madanipour, Dr Geoff Vigar
Sponsors: ESPON

The overall aim of the project is to develop a typology of contemporary governance practices; examine different forms of territorial governance in promoting territorial development objectives of EU sector policies as well as national and sub-national policies; demonstrate policy relevant options for creating better performing mechanisms for territorial governance in Europe, how to increase institutional capacity, and finally, how to use territorial development instruments more effectively by respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the existing distributions of competences; explore the conditions for transferability of good practices in particular within multi-level and cross-sector partnerships; develop the evidence-base for policy development in light of Cohesion policy aiming at improved competitiveness, sustainable and balanced growth of the European territory and in order to meet the objectives of territorial cohesion; disseminate the main outcomes and lessons from this project to policy-makers and practitioners using various visualisation tools as well as informative narratives.

ESPON TANGO will examine:

How is multi-level and cross-sector territorial governance organised throughout Europe and what are good mechanisms to ensure coordination between different public sectoral policies and cooperation between different levels of public government (including neighbouring areas)? What role can instruments of national and regional spatial planning systems play in creating better territorial governance? And what other effective models exist to obtain this aim? What happens if such instruments and models are not present? What are the main lessons for future Cohesion Policy, i.e. how can Cohesion Policy encourage stronger and more efficient forms of territorial governance at the different scales? These will be explored through some 12 in depth-case studies from different parts of Europe. The Newcastle Team is responsible for two UK case studies involving major documentary analysis, interviews and field visits.

The consortium consists of 6 European partners and is led by Nordic Centre for Spatial Planning (NORDREGIO) in Stockholm.


Architecture and roadmap to manage multiple pressures on lagoons (ARCH)

From September 2011 to August 2015
Project Leader(s): Professor Simin Davoudi

The overall aim of the project is to develop participative methodologies in collaboration with the involved managers, policy makers and stakeholders to manage the multiple problems affecting lagoons in Europe. The aim is to provide roadmaps for the implementation of realistic solutions at the lagoon scale.

Lagoons and estuaries are located at the interface between land and sea and the transition between fresh and salt water. They represent highly dynamic and productive ecosystems with a very complex structure. The complexity of managing lagoons and estuary systems is increased as a result of multiple pressures originating from urban, industrial, agricultural, and recreational activities. The EU Commission has taken the lead to promote Integrated Coastal Zone Management to balance the management of these systems. However, there are concerns that climate change, increasing urbanisation and industrialisation will exacerbate the existing pressures even further. This growing urbanisation may result in the gradual loss of biodiversity and a growing pressure on water resources. Addressing these pressures while minimising the environmental, economic and social vulnerabilities associated with the impacts is the main concern of this research project.

ARCH will examine the ongoing social and ecological interactions in 10 case studies of lagoons (estuarine coastal areas) representing all major seas surrounding Europe: The Baltic Sea, Norwegian Sea, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. Work on the case study sites will be undertaken using a participatory process with an evidence-based policy approach. The members of the consortium have leading roles in national and European initiatives on coastal management, marine ecology, environmental chemistry, climate change, economics, eco-innovation, governance, spatial planning and urbanisation. The use of integrated coastal zone management approaches including adapted land use and marine spatial planning is considered as a tool to determine actual and potential conflicting uses. The ARCH consortium consists of 11 partners from 9 European countries (Norway, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Romania, Poland, UK and Greece) and is led by Dr. Gijs Breedveld from Norwegian Geotechnical Institute.


Climate Change and Territorial Effects on Regions and Local Economies

From December 2008 to January 2012
Project Leader(s): Professor Simin Davoudi
Sponsors: EU ESPON 2013 Programme

The project will analyse the different degrees of mitigation and adaptation capacities of the European regions to provide a more realistic assessment of regional vulnerabilities and possibilities for policy-making and spatial planning. While data availability may impose restrictions, the identification of data gaps itself will be a valuable outcome for climate-related policy development.

For more information please visit the project website.


EU FP7 Sustainable Urban Metabolism for Europe (SUME)

From November 2008 to October 2011
Project Leader(s): Professor Simin Davoudi
Staff: Professor Ali Madanipour, Dr Zan Gunn
Sponsors: European Commission

This research project looks at how future urban systems can be designed in a way which is consistently less damaging to the environment than the current status.

The concept of urban metabolism helps us to understand and analyze how societies - partly located in urban areas - use resources, energy, land and other elements of the environmental system for maintaining and reproducing themselves. Urban development includes processes of growth in new areas, decay and abandonment and also restructuring and rehabilitation, in parallel.

In an historical perspective, the varying weight and speed of these components of urban development is characterizing some of the differences between cities regarding land use as well as resource and energy consumption. While the dynamics of urban development in these components have been studied and debated for a long time, the interrelation between urban development and urban metabolism in the sense of physical interaction with the environment is far less understood.

It is the main challenge of this project to find a sound strategy to link the urban metabolism approach to urban development concepts in a way that fosters a more sustainable development path for urban areas in the future.

For more information please visit the project website.


European Development Opportunities in Rural Areas (EDORA)

From August 2008 to March 2011
Project Leader(s): Professor Mark Shucksmith
Sponsors: ESPON

This project seeks to understand the different types of opportunities and challenges facing different types of rural areas across the enlarged EU and to suggest appropriate policies to reflect these differences. The 2 year project is co-ordinated by Andrew Copus of UHI, and involves partners from 13 other countries.

Mark Shucksmith is responsible for Policy Research Co-ordination and is a member of the Research Management Committee.

For more information please visit the project website.


Exploring the relationship between prevalence of overweight and obesity in 10-11 year olds and the outdoor physical environment, North East England

From October 2009 to September 2012
Project Leader(s): Tim Townshend
Staff: Dr Amelia Lake, Northumbria University and Dr Louisa Ells, North East Public Health Observatory (NEPHO)
Sponsors: ESRC and NEPHO

This ESRC PhD studentship is a trans-disciplinary collaboration between the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University; the Human Nutrition Research Centre, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University and the North East Public Health Observatory, NEPHO.

Obesity in childhood is of great concern. It is difficult to treat and there is a high risk of poor health in adulthood and reduced life expectancy. The mechanisms by which the environment influences obesity include physical activity and food intake however, these relationships are extremely complex and multi-factorial. Over the past two decades the influence of the physical environment has become an increasing focus of obesity research; however, the results of these studies had been disparate and often contradictory.

In 2008 Government Office North East and NEPHO commenced a mapping excercise to spatially link certain environmental factors (e.g. convenience stores, leisure facilities, green space and transportation links) with the rates of overweight and obesity in schools in the region. This data will be used in an initial exercise to identify hot and cold clusters of overweight and obesity in children in North East of England. These hotspots will be categorised into urban and rural then cross-correlated with Index of Multiple Deprivation Scores to identify two matched areas in terms of these categories for further investigation.

The studentship offers a chance to study the influence of built environment on the prevalence of obesity and overweight in childhood using ground breaking trans-disciplinary approaches. It will explore which factors within the built environment of children are related to energy balance behaviours and ultimately obesity. In doing so, contributing to the international effort to reduce the burden of childhood obesity; and the UK's own reduction target.


From Park to Club

From January 2010 to June 2011
Project Leader(s): Tim Townshend
Sponsors: Josepth Rowntree foundation

Tim Townshend, Director of Planning and Urban Design, and Professor Marion Roberts from the University of Westminster have been awarded £140,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Their research will investigate the influence of local variation in youth drinking practices with regard to opportunities, regulation and cultural capital. The study will look at young people in Newcastle and Guildford and will start in January 2010.


Everyday Sanitation: a comparative study of Mumbai's informal settlements

Note: Durham based project

From July 2009 to June 2011
Project Leader(s): Dr Colin McFarlane
Staff: Professor Stephen Graham
Sponsors: ESRC

There is widespread recognition that sanitation in cities in the global South has been neglected in the social sciences and international development community. This is despite the importance of sanitation in cities, particularly for the poor, for health, schooling, and employment, to gender relations and dignity

However, while the macro data on sanitation distribution and exclusion (on toilets, sewers, drainage and piped water) is well known at a city, national and global level, the everyday patterns of access, use, experience and perception of sanitation for different people within informal settlements remains poorly understood. There is a pressing need to understand the experience, perception and coping strategies different people have of sanitation within informal settlements.

This research aims to address these gaps through detailed ethnograhpic analysis of the micro-geographies of urban sanitation. It uses the case study of Mumbai, India, one of the world's biggest cities, where sanitation challenges are starkly posed, especially for the 54 per cent living in informal settlements. The research will consider how social differentials such as gender, age, class, caste, religion and ethnicity affect sanitation conditions, and will ask how these relations change over time. The ethnography will be conducted by a research assistant over two years.


ARCADIA (Adaptation and Resilience in Cities: Analysis and Decision making using Integrated Assessment)

Note: Civil Engineering based project

From June 2009 to May 2012
Project Leader(s): Professor Jim Hall
Staff: Professor Simin Davoudi
Sponsors: EPSRC

ARCADIA is a 3 year, EPSRC-funded, interdisciplinary project. Its main objectives include:

  • To develop and demonstrate new methods to analyse the interactions between climate impacts and the functioning of the urban economy
  • To analyse the relationship between the spatial configuration of cities and their resilience to climate impacts
  • To use these new system-scale insights to provide decision support tools for sustainable strategic adaptation of urban areas, and to work with stakeholders to embed these tools in decision making processes

The project is led by a team of researchers from Newcastle University with Prof. Jim Hall, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, as the Principal Investigator.

Professor Simin Davoudi, member of GURU and Co-Director of IRES leads one of the workpackages which aims to identify key stakeholders in urban adaptation decisions, their need for new analysis methods and their institutional capacity to assimilate these methods into decision making practices. It will also examine governance arrangements for adaptation to climate change in cities and seek to identify best practice in adaptation governance.

For more information please visit the project website.


In-Migrant Networks and Knowledge Economies in Rural England

From October 2008 to September 2011
Project Leader(s): Professor Mark Shucksmith (Supervisor)
Staff: Dr Andrew Donaldson (Supervisor) and Paul Cowie (PhD Student)
Sponsors: ESRC / One North East

Much has been written about the importance of the 'Knowledge economy' for the future competitiveness of regions and localities in the network society of the 21st Century, with emphasis placed on a range of intangible factors. It tends to be assumed that the shift towards a knowledge economy will favour urban cores in 'city-regions', with rural areas as consumption space, despite evidence that growth and innovation are higher in accessible rural England, though not in remoter rural areas. A few studies have explored how intangible factors affect the economic performance of rural areas. Recently, NESTA (2007) suggested that a "new industrial revolution" is occurring in the countryside, driven by skilled people abandoning cities in search of a better quality of life, despite policies which do not considerrural areas a legitimate location for businesses.

The aim of this research is to investigate in-migrants' contribution to the economies of remoter rural areas. Previous research has shown that most business start-ups in rural areas are associated with in-migration. In-migrants start and own up to two-thirds of all businesses in the countryside, and in the NE it is estimated that between 50-65% of new firms created since 2001 were created by in-migrants - some 1,000/1,300 new businesses (ONE 2007). The overriding factor in these migration decisions in a number of studies has been found to be quality of life. An incrasing number work from home, many in the knowledge intensive business sectors, and recent research by CRC has estimated that the number of people working from home in rural England is equal to the combined populations of Birmingham and Glasgow / "an invisible city". Yet planniing policies struggle to cope with "live-work", often discouraging new housing in rural areas in the belief that they will be occupied by commuters.

This PhD will ask how such in-migrants contribute to rural economies, and in particular how they might contribute in more remote rural areas which continue to suffer depopulation.


Rural Rein

From January 2010 to December 2012
Contact: Professor Mark Shucksmith
Sponsors: Norwegian Research Council
Partners: Centre for Rural Research (CRR - Norsk senter for bygdeforskning)

Professor Mark Shucksmith is to participate on researcher workshops, contribute to an analysis of the Norwegian findings related to the Scottish situation (crofting issues).


Science in the Field: Understanding the Changing Role of Expertise in the Rural Economy

From June 2008 to November 2010
Project Leader(s): Jeremy Phillipson
Staff: Dr Andrew Donaldson, Professor Philip Lowe and Dr Amy Proctor
Sponsors: ESRC

Note: AFRD Based Project

The exchange of knowledge is at the heart of both the knowledge-based economy and evidence-based policy making. These factors influence the rural economy and land management as much as any part of society. As the countryside is undergoing rapid change and upheaval, the pressures on land managers to adapt means that they require more and more types of specialist knowledge to carry out their jobs and run their businesses. Traditionally, rural research has focussed on the transfer of technical knowledge in a one-way flow from experts to land managers (especially farmers). Little attention has been given to the active role of field-level specialists who facilitate the knowledge exchange between researchers, policy makers and land managers. This project considers how these specialist advisers act as knowledge brokers. We will examine three different groups of knowledge brokers involved in rural land management: applied ecologists, rural vets and surveyors/land agents. The research will aim to:

  • Understand the training and experience that underpin the specialist knowledge of the advisers and how they and their professions adapt to scientific advances on the one hand and the changing rural economy on the other
  • Compare the approaches to knowledge exchange used by different field-based specialist
  • Explore how land managers relate to the different types of specialists and gauge the appropriateness of advice received.

By increasing understanding of these issues, the research will improve the ways in which research is communicated to land managers and also improve the flow of evidence between field-level specialists and policy makers.

For more information please visit the project website.


Security Impact Assessment Measure - A decision support system for security technology investments (SIAM)

From February 2011 to January 2014
Project Leader(s): Professor Stephen Graham, Associate Professor David Murakami-Wood
Sponsors: EU Seventh Framework, Security Theme

SIAM is a project designed to ease the complexity associated with the social and ethical assessment of security measures and technologies in contemporary cities and transport systems. Where today decision makers have to oversee a wide range of relevant aspects from many different scientific fields and national as well as cultural interests, SIAM will develop a structured framework for providing information to decision makers. Through four major case-studies, extensive literature reviewing and the gathering of the wisdom of Europes leading security and civil rights experts, it will seek to develop ways of identifying and highlighting potential infringements of rights and liberties associated with many security measures and technologies.

For more information please visit the project website.


Spatial Innovation, Planning, Design and User Involvement (SPINDUS)

From January 2010 to December 2013
Project Leader(s): Dr Geoff Vigar
Staff: Professor Jean Hillier, Professor Ali Madanipour and Dr Konrad Miciukiewicz
Sponsors: Flemish SBO-IWT
Partners: K U Leuven

Spatial quality is an intensively debated concept among spatial planners, urbanists and designers as well as in the broader society. The mission of SPINDUS is to address the urgent societal need for practical and pedagogical methods to assess spatial quality in a user-orientated and hence multi-dimentionial way. These methods will be based on the most advanced knowledge in different spatial disciplines and developed in continous dialogue with different types of users. SPINDUS opens up design-based research to contributions from spatial planning methods and spatial innovation concepts. The project aims to combine scientific progress, methodological innovation and sustained user involvement to develop new and innovative methods for user-orientated assessments of spatial quality.



From June 2010 to May 2013
Project Leader(s): Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson
Sponsors: EPSRC

(Personal Architectonics Through INteractions with Artefacts) project. PATINA is a £1.7m project jointly funded by AHRC and EPSRC through the Digital Economy Programme on ‘Designing Effective Research Spaces’.

The project is lead by Dr Mike Fraser at the University of Bristol and includes partners from Swansea, Greenwich, Southampton, Brighton along with Newcastle. The Newcastle team will be lead by Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson and the appointee will be employed by the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape and based in the University flagship interdisciplinary research facility Culture Lab.

The overall aim of the PATINA project is to design and build wearable prototypes that can enhance research objects by projecting related information back into their research space. These technologies will also provide the means to capture, record, and replay the researcher's activities to support intuitive archiving, sharing and publication of interactions with research objects. The design of the technologies will draw on theoretical frameworks of space developed from studies of research spaces as diverse as libraries, museums, homes and archaeological fieldwork sites.

Fore more information please visit the project website.