MSc Urban Design and International Planning / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Cities

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN60852
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Green Infrastructure planning brings together the sometimes disparate disciplines of planning, architecture, landscape and geography to form a more holistic approach to the development and management of our towns and cities. Using principles from Landscape Ecology and urban planning to shape the ways in which we embed landscape functionality into our cities, the module examines the history and current development of Green Infrastructure focussing on how people, water management, promoting health and economic development, and connectivity with nature can be integrated into urban areas. The module asks what Green Infrastructure is? How it is developed? What value it has for people and our cities? And what mechanisms are in place to ensure we develop more sustainable places. This takes a multi-stakeholder perspective asking how planners, environmentalists, landscape professionals and the public view, interact and value the landscapes around them in the UK, Europe and globally. 


The course unit aims to introduce the field of Green Infrastructure, green space planning and the development of sustainable cities by addressing the principles, values and utility of each concept within urban planning.

Drawing on a wide range of case study material the course unit examines the influence of socio-cultural change, environmental management and the economics and politics of planning on urban development to question how, where and why we use landscape resources to meet quality of life and place agendas.

By examining the relationship between the landscape, planning policy and human interactions the course unit highlights opportunities to implement various approaches to urban greening at a number of scales.  It also draws links between the role of Green Infrastructure planning in supporting sustainable city objectives and the discusses how we manage and monitor this process. This is achieved by assessing the alternative methods used to valorise and evaluate the functionality of urban and landscape development.

At the end of the course unit students will have a more in-depth understanding of the planning mechanisms that govern the development of Green Infrastructure resources within sustainability debates. The course unit will also provide students with the socio-economic and ecological knowledge they require to evaluate the added value that urban greening, Green Infrastructure and the development of sustainable urban landscapes can provide in real world planning scenarios.


Teaching and learning methods

Students will be provided with 42 hours of lectures, seminars and a field class which will make use of PPT, Blackboard and interactive activities. Each teaching session will include a lecture and a breakout discussion of the that’s topic, as well as reflections of key reading and the assessments.
Students will be encouraged to attend each session prepared to debate the material (set directed reading before each seminar – 4 hours reading approx.), and to apply their understanding of Green Infrastructure to different settings. This process will include the use of mapping and visualisation exercises. All materials generated from these activities will be uploaded onto Blackboard.
Students will also be encouraged to undertake self-guided/semi-guided tours of Manchester and other areas to gain experience of the design, functionality and value of urban Green Infrastructure. This will form part of the seminar discussions.
Each student will also be scheduled for a tutorial to discuss their assessment (pre-submission) and to debate any issue they are having or thoughts about the course unit.
The module will also make extensive use of Blackboard through the inclusion of embedded Green Infrastructure twitter feeds, links to extensive academic and practitioner literature, and the uploading of links to videos and other materials relevant to the course unit.
Students will also be encouraged to make use of the lecture capture facility to review the lectures and help them gain further insights into the course unit’s material.

Knowledge and understanding

1. Discuss the concept of Green Infrastructure and sustainable cities from their historical antecedents to their current use.
2. Discuss the value of Green Infrastructure and planning for sustainable cities in urban planning as a mechanism for addressing biodiversity, climate change, health, water management and wider urban greening issues.
4. To introduce the policy context of Green Infrastructure and planning for sustainable cities and examine the influences of political will, financial incentives and social needs in developing greener and more sustainable urban environments.
5. To develop an understanding of how Green Infrastructure and sustainable urban thinking can be, and is being, implemented through a more in-depth assessment of a series of global case studies.

Intellectual skills

1. Undertake policy analysis of management frameworks of urban landscapes, environmental resources and green space planning, and debate the utility of evaluation and monitoring techniques available to environmental managers.
2. Develop and present a critical analysis of historical and contemporary Green Infrastructure practices and apply this thinking to different contexts and development challenges.
3. To synthesise complex thematic approaches to Green Infrastructure planning and apply this analysis to development scenarios.

Practical skills

1. Articulate their understanding of the spatial, scalar and temporal articulations of green infrastructure using mapping, visualisation and written/verbal techniques.
2. Be conversant with forming arguments and debating the relative merits of alternative developments/projects

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Transferable skills and personal qualities 1. The development of critical reasoning skills and an appreciation of the complex and contested nature of for Green Infrastructure from alternative perspectives.
2. Demonstrate a reflective attitude towards development and management of the landscape.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Formal summative feedback on assessed work plus formative feedback in class/seminar discussions.

Summative feedback will be written and recording in Blackboard, whilst formative feedback will be verbally discussed in class/seminar/tutorial settings.

Students will also have the opportunity to comment on the programme within the Course Unit evaluation process.

Recommended reading

Ahern, J. (2013). Urban landscape sustainability and resilience: the promise and challenges of integrating ecology with urban planning and design. Landscape Ecology, 28(6), 1203–1212.
Austin, G. (2014). Green Infrastructure for Landscape Planning: Integrating Human and Natural Systems. New York: Routledge.
Benedict, M. A., & McMahon, E. T. (2006). Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities. Urban Land (Vol. June). Washington DC: Island Press.
CABE Space. (2005). Does money grow on trees? London.
Gill, S. E., Handley, J. F., Ennos, A. R., & Pauleit, S. (2007). Adapting Cities for Climate Change: The Role of the Green Infrastructure. Built Environment, 33(1), 115–133.
James, P., Tzoulas, K., Adams, M. D., Barber, A., Box, J., Breuste, J., … Ward Thompson, C. (2009). Towards an integrated understanding of green space in the European built environment. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 8(2), 65–75.
Kambites, C., & Owen, S. (2006). Renewed prospects for green infrastructure planning in the UK. Planning Practice and Research, 21(4), 483–496.
Little, C. (1990). Greenways for America. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Mell, I. C. (2016). Global Green frastructure: Lessons for successful policy-making, investment and management. Abingdon: Routledge.
Mell, I. C., Henneberry, J., Hehl-Lange, S., & Keskin, B. (2013). Promoting urban greening: Valuing the development of green infrastructure investments in the urban core of Manchester, UK. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 12(3), 296–306.
Mersey Forest. (2010). Liverpool Green Infrastructure Strategy. Risley Moss, UK.
Sinnett, D., Smith, N., & Burgess, S. (2015). Handbook on Green Infrastructure: Planning, design and implementation. (D. Sinnett, N. Smith, & S. Burgess, Eds.). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Young, R. F. (2010). Managing municipal green space for ecosystem services. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 9(4), 313–321.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
External visits 8
Lectures 24
Seminars 8
Tutorials 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 88

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ian Mell Unit coordinator

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