MSc Environmental Impact Assessment & Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Urban Theory, Planning Theory and Professional Ethics

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN60041
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


This module provides an introduction to some of the most important debates in contemporary urban theory, planning theory and practice. It does not, could not, attempt to cover all of planning theory and urban theory – rather it looks at the intersection of the two. The particular ‘take’ of this module involves exploring evolving issues in these two literatures around ‘the good city’ and ‘the good planner’.


1. To explore the relationship between planning theory, urban theory and planning practice.
2. To question the main functions of planning intervention.
3. To explore the development of different (often competing) modes of planning thought.
4. To consider the impact of ethics and values upon planning thought and practice.


Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will have developed:

  1. Critical awareness of the broader social and environmental context to planning activity.
  2. An appreciation of the dominant themes in planning theory and urban theory.
  3. Awareness of the nature of the theory-practice gap.
  4. Understanding of the impact of differing social and political agendas upon the direction of urban planning.
  5. Have established an appropriate framework for reflective practice

Teaching and learning methods

For post-graduate students, the course will have at its heart a series of weekly 2-hour lecture slots, supported by four seminar classes and two essay workshops. You are welcome to email and to come and discuss issues with Graham Haughton and by arrangement with other module teaching staff.  All lectures take place between 2 and4 on Thursdays. Week 8 is International Fieldtrip Week, so there are no lectures scheduled. 

Assessment methods

Continuous assessment (100%): Two essays, both individual. Essay one will be 1,000 words and worth 35% of the course total. Formative feedback from this essay will be provided before the submission of the final essay. Essay two (1500 words) 65%.

Feedback methods

Written feedback will follow submission of essay one, which will be provided before submission of the second essay. Opportunities will be available to discuss this feedback with the course lecturers. Essay two comes at the end of the course – written feedback on this will be provided within the standard SEED time limits (15 working days).

Recommended reading

Core reading
***Campbell, S. & Fainstein, S. (eds.) (2012) Readings in Planning Theory, Blackwell, Malden. (3rd edition – earlier ones are fine, but very different – the current edition says it has 70% new chapters in it)
Other course books
**Allmendinger P (2009) (2nd edition – 1st edition is fine too) Planning theory Palgrave Basingstoke
Allmendinger, P. (2000) Planning in Postmodern Times, Routledge, London.
*Allmendinger, P. and Tewdwr-Jones, M. (eds) (2002) Planning Futures: New Directions for Planning Theory, Routledge, London.
**Fainstein, S. & Campbell, S. (eds.) (2011, third edition) Readings in Urban Theory, Blackwell, Oxford.
Haughton G, Allmendinger P, Counsell D, Vigar G (2010), The New Spatial Planning: soft spaces, fuzzy boundaries and territorial management, Routledge, London.
Healey, P. (1997) Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Spaces, Macmillan, Basingstoke.
*Hillier J and Healey P (eds) (2010) The Ashgate Companion to Planning Theory, Ashgate Aldershot
Kitchen T (1997) People, politics, policies and plans Paul Chapman London
McCann, E. and Ward, K. ed. 2011 Mobile Urbanism: city policymaking in the global age. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
*Sandercock, L. (1998) Towards Cosmopolis: Planning for Multicultural Cities, Wiley, Chichester.
*Taylor, N. (1998) Urban Planning Theory Since 1945, Sage, London.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 116

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Graham Haughton Unit coordinator

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