MSc Global Urban Development and Planning

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Planning for Environmental Change

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN60771
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Within the last two centuries, insustrial society has generated unprecedented rates of environmental change. A firm commitment to economic optimisation, coupled with a faith in science and technology as a force of modernisation, has pushed environmental systems up to and beyond sustainable limits. Responding to the challenge of environmental change therefore requires a renewed understanding of the relationship between the economy, society and the environment and the development of more appropriate forms of management intervention. 


  • Explore the linkages between environmental change, environmental justice and sustainable development
  • Understand the complexities associated with planning for phenomena that are dynamic and often poorly understood, and gain skills in navigating these complexities
  • Explore the synergies and conflicts between the theories and practices aimed at responding to environmental change
  • Develop an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of environmental planning practices, and push the frontiers of what that practice could be


Learning outcomes

This course unit’s aims and learning outcomes contribute towards the knowledge, skills and professional standards of the year as a whole.


This module considers the drivers, pressures and impacts of environmental change. It provides the theoretical framing to appraise and make sense of a range of practical responses. It explores the opportunities presented by an endeavour to design for a regenerative future. Issues are explored in particular within the context of the Greater Manchester city region, as well as through international examples. 

A variety of perspectives are presented from academics and practitioners about ways to respond to environmental change in practice. The first assignment gives students an opportunity to develop their practical understanding by applying the ideas developed on the course to a local landscape (visited on the fieldtrip). The second assgnment develops a more in-depth theoretical understanding, as a basis for furture professional development and reflective practice. 

Teaching and learning methods

A high degree of critical analysis will be encouraged, building on both the theory and practice of planning for environmental change. Lectures will introduce a range of perspectives, creating a theoretical basis for critical thought and application of the ideas developed in the course to different areas of practice. A high degree of student engagement with the learning process will be encouraged through interactive workshops, particularly linked to the module assignments and discussion during the lectures. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify the dynamics of environmental change in a particular landscape
  • Illustrate linkages between environmental change, environmental justice and sustainable development when exploring furture options
  • Identify the complexities and uncertainties that affect strategic decision-making in the context of environmental planning

Intellectual skills

  • Critically appraise different environmental planning responses
  • Situate different environmental planning responses within the broader context of sustainable development

Practical skills

  • Be able to evaluate the possible dimensions of environmental change of actions and projects
  • Be better prepared to plan responses to environmental change in a variety of contexts

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop professional communication skills
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the key players in environmental planning and their roles
  • Demonstrate a reflective attitude towards professional practice in environmental planning

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Individual essay (2500 words)

Reflective learning journal (500 words) 

Feedback methods

Written feedback will be provided within 15 working days of assignment submission.

Recommended reading

Agyeman, J Schlosberg D, Craven L and Matthews C (2016) ‘Trends and Directions in Environmental Justice: From Inequity to Everyday Life, Community, and Just Sustainabilities Annual Review of Environment and Resources Vol. 41: 321-340

Benson, J and Roe, M. (2000) Landscape Sustainability, Spon, London.

Birkeland, Janis. 2008. Positive development: from vicious circles to virtuous cycles through built environment design. London: EARTHSCAN.

Davoudi, S., Crawford, J., and Mehmood, A. (eds). 2009. Planning for Climate Change: Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation for Spatial Planners. Earthscan, London.

Haughton, G. (2010) The New Spatial Planning: Territorial Management with Soft Spaces and Fuzzy Boundaries, Routledge, London.

Hickey, S. and Mohan, G. (2004) Participation: from tyranny to transformation? Exploring new approaches to participation in development London, Zed Books.

Hough, M. (2006) Cities & Natural Process, Routledge, London. World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

McDonough, William, Michael Braungart, Paul T. Anastas, and Julie B. Zimmerman. 2003. Peer Reviewed: Applying the Principles of Green Engineering to Cradle-to-Cradle Design. Environmental Science & Technology 37, no. 23 (December 1): 434A-441A

O’Riordan, T. (ed.) (2000) Environmental Science for Environmental Management, Prentice Hall, Harlow, 2nd edition

Pelling M. 2010. Adaptation to Climate Change: From Resilience to Transformation. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken. Available on line through library.

Robèrt, Karl-Henrik. 2000. ‘Tools and Concepts for Sustainable Development, How Do They Relate to a General Framework for Sustainable Development, and to Each Other?’ Journal of Cleaner Production 8 (3): 243–54.

Selman, P. (2006) Planning at the Landscape Scale, Routledge, London.

Tippett, J. and How, F. 2020. ‘Where to lean the ladder of participation: a normative heuristic for effective coproduction processes’, Town Planning Review, 91, (2), 109–132.

Wheeler, S. M. and Beatley, T. (Editors) (2014) Sustainable Urban Development Reader (Routledge Urban Reader Series)

White, I. (2010) Water and the City: risk, resilience and planning for a sustainable future, Routledge: London.

Wondolleck, J. M..,Yaffee, S. L..2000. Making Collaboration Work - Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resource Management.Washington D.C. Island Press

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 6
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 112

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joanne Tippett Unit coordinator

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