Reforming Planning Systems: locally, nationally and overseas

Many countries are grappling with the social and environmental challenges that have intensified due to two factors: rapid urbanisation combined with outdated land-use planning policies. Researchers at the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Liverpool, established in 1909 and the first of its kind in the world, are providing practical and effective answers to these questions for governments and policy makers in UK and overseas.

The challenge

How do we build urban resilience to climate change or make provision for affordable housing? How can we fund infrastructure and urban renewal in a period of straitened public finances? The urban planning unit works in any location worldwide, translating their knowledge and expertise on the economics of planning into policy-ready solutions. This involves providing relevant, cutting-edge research and consultancy services to governments, business and other stakeholders.

Research action

Urban planning research comprises a range of methods from behavioural and experimental economics to mathematical approaches, such as game theory, to model logical decision-making and behaviours.

Some of the policy projects and challenges tackled by the urban planning groups include investigating housing and planning policy reform in the UK, an in-depth study of the economy of the Liverpool City Region and the Albert Dock’s role in Liverpool.

Further afield, economic growth and urban planning collaborations with governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa have yielded impacts in training and development of the planning profession overseas.

Working in partnership

Urban planning at Liverpool has conducted projects for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Research Trust. Additional projects have been funded directly by local, national and international policymakers, such as the UK Government, the European Union and the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Collaborative work completed with the University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute has focused on regeneration in former industrial cities. Moreover, Liverpool led the consortium of universities (Cambridge, LSE, Oxford and Sheffield) that completed Valuing Planning Obligations 2016/17 for the UK government’s Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Outputs and outcomes

Impacts from policy projects include work on housing and planning policy reform in the UK by Dr Richard Dunning and colleagues. The main finding was that agreed developer contributions from England alone in 2016-17 totalled £6 billion, a significant stimulus to infrastructure investment and economic development. This work has gone on to play a pivotal role in reshaping planning policy in the UK.

In 2017, a group led by Dr John Sturzaker undertook a far-reaching study of the economy of the Liverpool City Region – An Agenda for Liverpool. The study provides important analyses of economic activity, its geographical location and how this activity could be developed further. The work was warmly endorsed by the mayor of the Liverpool, Steve Rotherham Also in 2017, Dr John Sturzaker’s team produced an important study of the Albert Dock’s role in the Liverpool City Region, recommending brave measures to maximise its opportunities. The document supported the later re-naming to the Royal Albert Dock.

Professor David Shaw’s group has translated work towards economic growth and urban planning with governments including Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. The work has focused on transitioning these nations from dependency on environmental resources to other sources of economic growth. The work has been done in collaboration with colleagues at Cairo University. The work is explicitly referred to in the development of planning policy in Saudi Arabia, helping to deliver smarter and more compact cities

Back to: Department of Geography and Planning