School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Staff Profile

Dr Suzanne Speak

Degree Programme Director MSc International Spatial Planning


I am a Senior Lecturer in Planning in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University, England.  In recent years my research has been primarily in developing and emerging countries of Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America, where I have developed experience of a range of social and cultural contexts. 

My teaching focuses on housing and settlements, planning regulation and policy and stakeholder engagement, particularly in developing countries.  In recent years my research interests have diversified to include research on the role of urban planning in enhancing food security in developing countries.  To this end I have been working with OAU, Ile Ife in Nigeria exploring the way in which planning acts as a barrier to urban agriculture. I am the co-ordinator of a multi-national research hub on food security within the UN Habitat Partnership Universities Initiative. 

I also undertake consultancy and training work for external agencies on behalf of the University.  I have experience of developing and delivering continuing professional development for policy makers and planners in North Africa and the Middle East and have undertaken consultancy work for a number of governments as well as for the UN.  I was part of a team of people who undertook a study on the state of Iraq cities in 2006 and have since updated that study.

I am the Director of two internationally focused taught post graduate degree programmes (MSc International Spatial Planning and Master of Architecture, Planning and Landscape).  I run modules on: Housing and Settlements; Regulatory Frameworks in Developing Countries and Stakeholders and Public Engagement,   I contribute an international dimension to modules on Sustainable Development, Reflexive Practitioner (Ethics)

I currently supervise 5 international PhD students (Nigeria (2), Iran (1), India (1) Romaia (1) and have seen 3 through to completion.  I contribute annually to the School and Faculty Post Graduate Research Student Research Training Programme.


 Postgraduate Teaching

The majority of my teaching is at post graduate level and grows directly out of my research interests and expertise. In particular my teaching focuses on issues of development and urban planning in the developing world. I have developed and teach modules on Housing and Settlements, Regulatory Frameworks in the Developing World and Stakeholders and Participation and Planning in Developing Countries.  This last module includes a very successful field trip to India which has now run for 8 years.

Following the success of that module and field trip I developed and introduced a taught post graduate MSc. Degree Programme in Planning for Developing Countries, for which I am the Director. I am also the Director of the  Master of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (non-Design) programme. This has attracted considerable interest from international students wanting to undertake non-accredited architecture and planning study.

To support the diverse needs of needs of international students I run extra curricula sessions on Social Science study skills, essay writing and studying in UK. 

Post Graduate Research supervision

I currently supervise 5 international PhD students.  Their subjects are:

·         Master Planning in Nigeria

·         Livelihoods and informal settlements in Nigeria

·         Transport and Environment in Tehran

·         Securitisation of space in Gare du Nord, Paris

·         Community networking in informal settlements in India


Research Interests

I am a qualitative researcher. My research focuses on poverty and inequity in the Global South. In particular I am interested in housing, homelessness and migration and the way these interface with access to the city. I am increasingly interested in the way in which dominant groups lay down perceived acceptable urban(e) behaviour within cities and how this conflicts with the survival strategies and rationales of the urban poor. This has led to a growing interest in urban agriculture and in the way in which the poor are prevented from addressing their most basic needs for food and shelter. As well as continuing my interlinked interests in homelessness, informal settlements and access to the city, I am also working with OAU in Ile Ife, studying the relationship between urban agriculture and urban planning.

I am a member of the United Nations Habitat Partnership Universities Initiative, within which I am co-ordinating a research ‘Hub’ on Food Security and Urban Agriculture. 

I have worked in a range of countries of the Global South (most recently: India, Bangladesh, Egypt, China, Bolivia, Peru, Nigeria). I am interested in exploring the way in which the minutiae of everyday life is influenced by urban policy and planning practice. To that end, over the last 20 years of my career, I have developed a range of participatory, qualitative approaches to field work and data collection. 

I deliver lectures annually at Punjab University in Chandigarh on social science research methods.  I have also taught at School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi.

Other Expertise

Through 3rd strand activity I have built up a sound range of experience in evaluations of Government regeneration programmes, such as SRB or New Deal for Communities. This is transferable to other evaluation based research and underpins much of the 3rd strand work I get

Future Research

I am working towards further research funding to extend the study on the relationship between urban agriculture and urban planning. I am collaborating with OAU Nigeria, RUAF, in Netherlands and colleagues in SAPL at Newcastle to develop a multi-disciplinary methodology to support such a bid.

Postgraduate Supervision

I currently supervise 6 PhD students and generally supervise around five other post graduate (MSc) dissertation students each year as well as three or four undergraduate students.

Esteem Indicators

I am on the editorial board of International Journal of Sustainable Tropical Design Research and Practice (Alam Cipta).

I have been involved in a number of projects for UN Habitat. I was joint moderator of the UN Habitat e-dialogue on ‘right to the city in 2009. I was part of a team which undertook the State of Iraqi Cities report for the Iraqi Government in 2006.



2009 British Council Project with Abafemi Owolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria, Exploring the relationship between Urban Agriculture and Urban planning

2008/9 Development of a programme of training and professional development on sustainable development.  Commissioned by Middlesbrough Borough council and One North East.  £18,000

2008 Health Impact Assessment of Trinity Square Development Proposal – Gateshead. For Spenhill Plc, £11,000

2007 State of Iraqi Cities Project £17,500.  For UN-Habitat and Ministry of Municipalities, Iraq

2007 Hosting of Ministerial Fact Finding Mission to UK for Minister of Municipalities and senior Urban Professionals for Iraqi Government

2004/5 Evaluation of 3 SRB Programmes in Middlesbrough, Loftus and Skelton.  For Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.  5 months.  Joint applicant with Banks of the Wear Community Projects Project value £42,000.

2004 A review of the Cities Alliance approach to community-led, pro-poor upgrading settlement upgrading. £9,000  For UN-Habitat.

2004 Study of the barriers to the take up of health and social care services by black and minority ethnic people in Gateshead, for Gateshead Health Improvement Group, 4 months.  Joint applicant with Banks of the Wear Community Projects Project value £7000,

2003 Study of Community Cohesion in Sunderland, for Sunderland City Council, 5 months.  With Banks of the Wear Community Projects Project value £5,500

2002 Evaluation of the environmental and social implications of intensification of shrimp farming in the Sunderbans, Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh.  In collaboration with Kulna University.  Funded by British Council

2001 - 03 Evaluation of the environmental implications of work undertaken through the ‘Golden Jubilee Poverty Alleviation Programme’ India.  In collaboration with the University of Punjab.  Funded by British Council

2000 Development and provision of capacity building for urban regeneration for Egyptian and North African Planners.  Housing and Urban Studies Institute, Cairo

2000 Evaluation of the Standards Fund Grant for Teenage Pregnancy.  DFES, with Department of Sociology and Social Policy University of Newcastle upon Tyne. £107,000 21 months

2002 Best approaches in the education of pregnant young women and young mothers of statutory school age.   Teenage Pregnancy Unit.  with Department of Sociology and Social Policy University of Newcastle upon Tyne. £127,000 – 18 months

1999 Evaluation of ‘Fit for Work’ Single Regeneration Budget Programme in Newham, East London - £35,000 12 months (Sole applicant)

1998 ‘Planning for a Healthy Environment’ - Children and young people’s participation in neighbourhood and community development in Newham and Southwark.  Commissioned by The King’s Fund, London. £50,000 - 2 years (sole applicant)

1997 Marginalised neighbourhoods and business disinvestment in essential services - Joseph Rowntree Foundation Area Regeneration Programme £56,000 - 2 years (Joint applicant with S. Graham)