Global Urban Research Unit

Planning & Environmental Dynamics

Planning and Environmental Dynamics


The Planning and Environmental Dynamics theme builds on our position as an internationally-renowned centre for critical research into the theory and practice of spatial planning and environmental management.

The theme investigates the dynamic context in which governance interactions occur. It also looks at the dynamic interactions in terms of conflicts and synergies within and between urban systems and environmental performances themselves.

Drivers of changes

Within this changing context, this theme focuses on the drivers of these changes, including:

  • shifting power relations
  • revised legislation and procedural requirements
  • altered governance arrangements
  • changed professional remits and expectations
  • the growth of partnership working and consultancy

Planning in managing change

The theme looks at the role of planning in managing ‘change’, as a driver for development and reform. This includes the formulation of public law and policy. It also looks at wider governance issues relating to professionals' remit, expertise, cultural understandings, guiding concepts and theories.

It looks at planning in managing change as a potential constraint and risk to development. This is due to the alteration of natural cycles and systems, and of the boundary between human and natural landscapes as a result of human-induced activities and pressures.

This includes the consideration of direct and indirect on a range of environmental receptors (including landscape), ecosystems (including marine environments), as well as cumulative and synergistic impacts such as climate change.

This theme is interested in the:

  • contexts of the interactions occurring within planning and environmental management
  • interactions themselves
  • substance of these interactions

Research projects have informed our work

Research projects in the UK, Europe and beyond have informed our work in a number of ways:

Improved evidence-base

They have improved the evidence-base that informs territorial governance and spatial planning practices.

Awareness of how the environment responds and reacts to change  

Research projects have improved our awareness and understanding of how the environment responds and reacts to change. This is in terms of its assets, resources and services. This is through ex-ante and anticipatory environmental assessment.

How the environment is integrated into planning for sustainability

Research projects have improved how the environment is integrated into planning for sustainability, and how it informs policy. This is to optimise the potential for synergies in changing environmental dynamics and co-benefits for the environment and/or human quality of life.

Promoting theoretical ideas

Research projects have also informed our work by promoting theoretical ideas, concepts and methodologies for analysing such practices. This is through a focus on institutional capacity and institutional transformation in urban and regional governance initiatives. Where necessary, we look at a reform or review of required approaches, skills and knowledge.

Key continuing questions for the theme

  • How do the agencies associated with contemporary governance practice conceptualise ever-changing policy issues and questions? How do they intervene in attempts to shape place and space?
  • What roles do different stakeholders and their networks play in such work?
  • What practices, arenas and processes, both formal and informal, may be involved?


Find out what we're currently working on, and projects we've completed.


Find out which members of staff are involved in this research theme.

Professor Simin Davoudi
Professor of Environmental Policy & Planning

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6809

Dr Paola Gazzola
Senior Lecturer in Planning / Degree Programme Director MPlan/BA Urban Planning/BA Town Planning and BA Geography and Planning

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7810

Dr Zan Gunn
Degree Programme Director Diploma in Town Planning

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8002

Emeritus Professor Patsy Healey OBE
Emeritus Prof of Town & Country Plann

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8810

Professor John Pendlebury
Professor of Urban Conservation

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6810

Professor Geoff Vigar
Professor of Urban Planning and Director of Research

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8338