School of the Built Environment


    The Spatial Planning Group (SPG) brings together a wide range of intellectual and policy concerns within spatial planning and associated fields, both nationally and internationally.

    It recognises and builds on cross-cutting and multidisciplinary interests within the broad remit of spatial planning, as well as advancing established research strengths in specific fields.



    The Spatial Planning Group members have a strong track record in research funding, including: Economic and Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), British Academy, Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), and The Leverhulme Trust.

    The group comprises 3 broad themes as detailed further below:


    ATM is a response to contemporary concerns with mobility and the more dynamic, heterogeneous and internationalised societies that are underpinned by such fluidity. Mobility research incorporates the local consequences of global and transnational movements and flows, transportation policy and travel behaviour, global network studies, and sustainable mobility studies. ATM represents an innovative combination of disciplinary interests in this field:

    • International Migration and Sustainable Development
    • Transportation and Mobility Studies
    • Infrastructure Planning and Delivery


    The planning system engages some of the most important challenges of our time – climate change, economic restructuring, demographic shifts and housing affordability, as well as deep questions about the nature of our democracy. Understanding the nature of these challenges and putting in place the most effective forms of governance and policy in response are at the very heart of the planning discipline. Research interests here include:

    • Governance and Democracy, Participation and Engagement
    • Planning Ideas, Learning and Policy Transfer
    • Planning History
    • Spatial Planning Policy and Politics
    • Regional Planning and City-Regions
    • Professionalism in Planning
    • Critical Futures – Complexity, Knowledge, Evidence, Risk


    SPG has long-established strengths and profile in the fields of Economic Development, Innovation and Regeneration. It is particularly well-placed to respond to developing research and policy agendas in the wake of the credit crunch, global economic recession and Brexit. Not surprisingly these have sharpened the focus on patterns of economic restructuring and attempts to respond to such patterns at regional, urban and other scales. Core interests here include:

    • Local and Regional Economic Dynamics
    • Innovation and Development in the Low Carbon Economy
    • Evolutionary economic geography theory
    • Competitive economic performance of urban and regional economies
    • Conceptualising Local, Regional and Neighbourhood Development
    • Governing Development and Regeneration Policy
    • People-Equality-Diversity
    • Juliet Carpenter (2016-2019) The Democratic Foundations of the Just City in collaboration with Zurich University, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation
    • Tim Jones (PI), with Sue Brownill, Ramin Keivani, & Georgia Butina-Watson (2016-2019) Brazil-UK Healthy Urban Mobility funded by the ESRC UK-Brazil collaborative research call on Healthy Urban Living. The grant incorporates a multi-disciplinary partnership between OBU and Brasilia, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul focusing on healthy urban mobility and wellbeing. PIs are Tim Jones and Hartmut Gunther (Brazilia)
    • Tim Jones (PI), Ben Spencer & Nick Beale (2013-16) cycleBOOM EPSRC Lifelong Health and Wellbeing grant with the Universities of Reading, Cardiff and West of England. A multi-disciplinary study to understand cycling amongst the older population and how this affects independence, health and wellbeing. Details available at
    • Sue Brownill (PI) with Yougha Cho, Ramin Keivani and Ilir Nase, Nick Whitehouse (Architecture) and Dave Valler (2013-14) Planning obligations: what factors deliver affordable homes and what alternatives are there? Joseph Rowntree Foundation
    • Dave Valler (2014-17) Global Science ‘Scapes: Dimensions of Transnationalism' Leverhulme International Network with partner institutions in the UK, US, Europe and Asia. Website available at
    • Jones, T. & Chisholm, A. Understanding Walking and Cycling EPSRC, in collaboration with Universities of Lancaster and Leeds, 2008-11
    • Marshall, T. Infrastructure and spatial planning ESRC Fellowship 2008-10
    • Brownill, S. O’Hara, G. (2016) From Planning to Opportunism; Reinterpreting the Creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation Planning Perspectives 30.4
    • Brownill, S., Keivani, R., & Pereira, G. (2013). Olympic legacies and city development strategies in London and Rio; beyond the carnival mask? International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, 5.2. 111-131
    • Marshall, T. (2014) Infrastructure futures and spatial planning; Lessons from France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK Progress in Planning 89. 1-38
    • Marshall, T. (2014) The European Union and Major Infrastructure Policies: The Reforms of the Trans-European Networks Programme and the Implications for Spatial Planning European Planning Studies 22, 7, 1484-1506
    • Mbiba, B. (2012) Zimbabwean Diaspora Politics in Britain: Insights from 'The Cathedral Moment, 2009' Journal of Comparative Commonwealth Politics 50.2. 225 – 251
    • Simmie, J., Sternberg, R., & Carpenter, J. (2014) New technological path creation: evidence from the British and German wind energy industries Journal of Evolutionary Economics 24.4. 875-904
    • Simmie, J. (2012). Path dependence and new path creation in renewable energy technologies European Planning Studies 20.5. 729-731
    • Phelps,N. Valler,D. (2016) ‘Urban development and the politics of dissonance’ Territory, Politics, Governance Published online at
    • Valler,D. Phelps,N. (2016) ‘Delivering growth? Evaluating economic governance in England’s South-East sub-regions’ Town Planning Review 87.1. 5-30
    • Valler,D. Phelps,N. Radford,J. (2014) ‘Soft space, hard bargaining: Planning for hi-tech growth in Science Vale UK’ Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 32. 824-842
    • Valler,D. Tait,M. Marshall,T. (2013) ‘Business and Planning: A Strategic-Relational Approach’ International Planning Studies 18.2. 143-167
    • Ward, S.V. (2016) ‘Promoting the Olympic City’, in J. R. Gold and M. M. Gold (eds) Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning and the World's Games, 1896-2020 (3rd edition), London: Routledge, 161-79
    • Ward, S.V. The Peaceful Path: Building Garden Cities and New Towns, Hertfordshire Publications: Hatfield
    • Cook, I. R., Ward, S. V. and Ward, K. (2014) A springtime journey to the Soviet Union: postwar planning and policy mobilities through the Iron Curtain International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38.3. 805-22
    • Ward, S. V. (2013) Cities as Planning Models Planning Perspectives 28.2. 295-313
    • Ward, S.V. (2012) Soviet communism and the British planning movement: rational learning or Utopian imagining? Planning Perspectives 27.4. 499–524
    • Marshall, T. (2012) Planning Major Infrastructure: A Critical Analysis London: Routledge
    • Jones T, Pooley C G, Scheldeman G, Horton D, Tight M, Mullen C, Jopson A, Whiteing A, (2012) Moving around the city: discourses on walking and cycling in English urban areas Environment and Planning A 44(6) 1407 – 1424
    • Ward, S. V. (with Freestone, R. and Silver, C.) (2011) The 'new' planning history: reflections, issues and directions, Town Planning Review, 82 (3), pp. 231-262
    • Ward, S. V. (2011) Port Cities and the Global Exchange of Planning Ideas, in C. Hein (ed) Port Cities London: Routledge, pp. 74-85.
    • Simmie, J. & Martin, R. (2010) 'The Economic Resilience of Regions: Towards an Evolutionary Approach' Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 3(1) 27-44
    • Valler, D. & Wood, A. (2010) 'Conceptualizing Local and Regional Economic Development in the United States', Regional Studies, 44(2) 139-151
    • Ward, S. V. (2010) 'Transnational Planners in a post-colonial world', chapter in P. Healey & R. Upton (eds) Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. Routledge. pp. 47-72
    • Ward, S. V. (2010) 'What did the Germans ever do for us? A Century of British Learning About and Imagining Modern Planning', Planning Perspectives, 25(2) 117-140
    • Headicar, P. (2009) Transport Policy and Planning in Great Britain, London: Routledge
    • Brownill, S. & Carpenter, J. (2009) 'Governance and Integrated Planning in the Thames Gateway, England', Urban Studies, 46(2) 251-274
    • Mbiba, B. (2010) 'Burial at Home: Dealing with Death in the Diaspora and in Harare', Chapter in McGregor, J. & Primorac, R. (eds.) Displacement and Survival: Zimbabwe's New Diasporic Identities and Connections Berhghahn Publishers
    • Carpenter, J. & Brownill, S. (2008) 'Approaches to democratic involvement: Widening community engagement in the English planning system' Planning Theory and Practice, 9(2) 227-248
    • Simmie, J. & Carpenter, J. (2008) 'Towards an evolutionary and endogenous growth theory explanation of why regional and urban economies in the UK are diverging', Planning, Practice & Research, 23(1) 101-124
    • Ward, S. (2008) 'Thomas Sharp as a figure in the British Planning movement' Planning Perspectives, 23(4) 523-533