CP0312: Planning Theory and Practice

School Cardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department Code GEOPL
Module Code CP0312
External Subject Code K400
Number of Credits 20
Level L6
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Dr Alun Thomas
Semester Autumn Semester
Academic Year 2017/8

How the module will be assessed

Type of assessment





(if applicable)

Approx. date of Assessment



Comparing the ideas of major theorists about the nature of planning knowledge





Analysing a planning episode using theoretical concepts such as the public interest



Students are permitted to be reassessed (usually once) in a module which they have failed, in line with course regulations. The reassessment will usually take place during the summer.

How the module will be delivered

The module will be taught through:

  • lectures:  Reading related to the lectures will be mentioned at the lecture and in handouts. On occasion, lecture slots will have an informal , workshop, approach – typically when dealing with the kinds of skills and approach useful for coursework.
  • reading workshops: the focus for each will be a single reading (with supplementary readings occasionally recommended). All attending are expected to have done the recommended reading.


Outline Description of Module

The module stands back from the details of planning policies and instruments, and asks questions about how we might understand some of the key ideas used, and assumed, by those engaged in the planning system. These include ideas such as ‘the public interest’, and ‘heritage and conservation’. An organising framework for the module is different ways of understanding what being a professional involves.  Particular attention will be given to the idea of the planner as technician, and the contrasting idea of the reflective practitioner. The understanding developed in the module is used to illuminate aspects of everyday planning whose significance might go unnoticed in discussions with a more procedural focus. 

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  1. Set out and evaluate major approaches (in planning theory) to questions about the nature, purpose and methods of spatial planning.
  2. Use concepts and approaches from planning theory to analyse debates and innovation in contemporary spatial planning practice.
  3. Discuss some competing approaches to understanding planning practice
  4. Undertake independent critical reading in an unfamiliar subject area within planning
  5. Reflect on their own professional development and learning in a structured way

Skills that will be practised and developed

Deep reading of academic texts

Communicating and contributing constructively to  group discussions

Writing  for academic audiences

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 60 Report N/A 1 N/A
Written Assessment 40 Essay N/A 1 N/A

Essential Reading and Resource List

Allmendinger, P  (2009) Planning Theory  2nd ed London, Palgrave

Taylor, N  (1998) Urban Planning Theory since 1945 London, Sage 

Background Reading and Resource List

Brooks, Michael P(2002)  Planning Theory for Practitioners  Chicago, Planners Press

Fainstein, S and De Filippis eds (2016) Readings in Planning Theory  4thed Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell

Friedmann, J (1987) Planning in the Public Domain Princeton, Princeton University Press

Sandercock, L (1998 )Towards Cosmopolis  Chichester, John Wiley

Thomas, H and Healey, P eds (1991) Dilemmas of Planning Practice Aldershot, Ashgate

Syllabus content

The module’s scope extends beyond models of planning; but these models can provide starting points for thinking about many topics. So, for example, the technical model of planning (and its rivals) provide different ways of understanding and answering :

  • the meanings of certain key ideas that act as guides for planners : eg rationality, the public interest
  • the meanings of certain objectives that planning is often asked to have – eg justice, conservation
  • the way questions of value impinge on planners’ work – this includes, aesthetic, moral and political values
  • what knowledge,  skills and attributes do planners have, and should they have? How can you (as planners and students) think systematically about developing your skills?
  • more generally, the importance of being a reflective practitioner (however defined).

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