BSc Planning and Real Estate / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Environmental Policies and Designations

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN20401
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Planning and Environmental Management
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module focuses on planning policy and practice with specific reference to the environment and the intersection of these issues to better understand the role of designations, how they are managed, and their effectiveness once established. Locating these discussions within the evolving policy discussions of landscape ‘functionality’ the module addresses the complexities of planning for people, economic growth and environmental protection simultaneously. This includes reflecting on the regulatory process of policy-making, compliance with guidance/policy and the legal responses open to responsible management agencies who fulfil licence/permit/consent/scheme requirements. It also provides an analytical perspective on the wider designation system and how this may change in the future.

The management of our natural environment has never been more complicated. Current trends globally are seeing less emphasis being placed on the protection of terrestrial and water-based landscapes with the UK government being increasingly focussed on economic growth rather than environment management. Moreover, the perceived need to invest in strategic transport, commercial and housing infrastructure generates added complexity to the planning and management of the environment in both the UK and globally.

Traditionally, approaches to environmental planning have focussed on the conservation of landscapes and wildlife habitats taking the form of identifying areas, species or socio-cultural elements of the landscape and setting them apart from other land management system. This raises several important policy, practice and utility issues regarding who, what and how the environment is framed. Consequently, there is a need to ensure that these areas are effectively managed following their designation to deliver positive social-economic and ecological benefits.

However, there are ongoing concerns that by protecting only “high quality” landscapes that urban-fringe or areas of lower scenic/ecological value may be undermanaged. To ensure that such areas are debated the practice of landscape management will be considered within the module to take a more holistic view of ‘value’ and ‘functionality’ to include those spaces considered special and those labelled as ‘everyday’. All landscapes, and specifically designated areas, face pressures from outside, usually related to national planning, development or regulatory requirements focussing on the economic and environmental change. This implies that designated areas are likely to be places where a careful series of compromises between different objectives are constructed, involving many parties which have little respect for the official purposes of such areas.


The module aims to equip students with the following knowledge:

  • To understand the policy background of environmental and landscape planning and its impacts on the effective management of environmental resources at all scales
  • To debate the complexities of managing broader environment issues and specific water, biodiversity, energy and human-orientated landscape development
  • To assess the effectiveness of current planning measures for the management of a variety of designated landscapes
  • To identify practical measures to improve the landscape and nature conservation interest of all types of countryside
  • To explore potential conflicts between conservation considerations and those relating to the development of the rural economy

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Understand the role played by various stakeholders in the development and management of environmental and landscape policy.
  • Ability to debate the complexities of human-environmental interface issues including water and conservation management, access to nature, and more strategic development.
  • Possess the ability to evaluate the effects of a variety of designations on specific landscapes in the UK and globally.
  • Have an advanced understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the many formal designations for landscape and nature conservation.
  • Be able to engage effectively with a range of media/academic/practitioner materials and evaluate the validity of materials presented for rigour.





Introduction to Environmental Policies and Designations


Policy and designations: international perspectives 


National and local policy and designations – UK


Policy in action: Stakeholders/policy-practice interface


Climate Change


Assignment tutorials


Water urban and catchment management: scale, focus and delivery


Biodiversity, Conservation Designations, and Net gain/Natural Capital Accounting


National Parks and National Park Cities


Green Belts


Revision/Exam prep session


Discussions Board/Office Hour


Teaching and learning methods

The module will make use of lectures examining the complexities of environmental and landscape policy, protection and designations. The module will be taught by Dr Ian Mell and Dr Philip Bell and provide students with a variety of perspectives on environmental planning in the UK and globally.

The module’s lectures will be complemented by addition seminars, and a field class providing students with opportunities to engage with aspects of the course unit’s conceptual, policy and practice-based issues.

Additional podcast/screencasts will be developed/recorded to support the module. These will be short 5-10 minute videos outlining the key ideas that will be discussed in lectures. They will be posted on Blackboard prior to the lectures/seminars. These are to be used as an additional aid to learning and not as a replacement to attending lecture or the use of lecture capture.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Recommended reading

Adams, W (1996) Future Nature: a vision for conservation (London: Earthscan)

Anderson, M (1990) “AONBs and the 1949 National Parks Act”, Town Planning Review 61, 311-39.

Bishop, K & Phillips, A (Eds.) (2004) Countryside planning: new approaches to management and conservation (London: Earthscan)

Bishop, K, Phillips, A & Warren, L (1995) “Protected for ever? Factors shaping the future of protected areas policy”, Land use policy 12 (4), 291-305.

Bishop, K, Phillips, A & Warren, L (1997) “Protected areas for the future: models from the past”, Journal of environmental planning and management 40(1), 81-110.

Brodie, I (2012) Thirlmere and the emergence of the landscape protection movement (Carlisle: Bookcase)

Brodie, I (2013) Why National Parks? (Sheffield: Wildtrack)

Brown, J, Mitchell, N & Beresford, M (Eds) (2005) The protected landscape approach: linking nature, culture and community (Cambridge: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)

Cherry, G (1975) Environmental planning 1939-1969 (volume 2): National parks and recreation in the countryside (London: HMSO)

Council for National Parks (2006) Prosperity and Protection: the economic impact of National Parks in the Yorkshire and Humber region (London: Council for National Parks).

Cullingworth, B., Nadin, V., Hart, T., Davoudi, S., Pendlebury, J., Vigar, G., et al. (2015). Town and Country Planning in the UK (15th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.

Department for Communities and Local Government (2012) National Planning Policy Framework  (London: DCLG)

Department of the Environment (1994) PPG9: Nature Conservation (London: HMSO)

Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2002) Review of English

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Practical classes & workshops 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 149

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ian Mell Unit coordinator

Return to course details