CPT878: Planning for Sustainability

School Cardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department Code GEOPL
Module Code CPT878
External Subject Code K400
Number of Credits 20
Level L7
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Professor Richard Cowell
Semester Spring Semester
Academic Year 2017/8

How the module will be assessed

Group presentation

15% contribution

30 minutes



85% contribution

3,500 words


How the module will be delivered

The module will be delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops and in-class discussion groups, supported by Powerpoint slides. There will be two two-hour sessions each week, supplemented by additional workshops. Handouts will be made available for each session, comprising of the Powerpoint slides and suggestions for additional reading. Handouts will be posted in advance on Learning Central. Only limited use of audio and video is made in this module.

During all sessions, there is an expectation of student input, either individual, or following in-class group work exercises. Students will always be given an appropriate amount of time to prepare for this input.In some weeks students will be expected to read and assess written material, or gather some information, which will be used in the following session. In weeks 2-4, students will be allocated time in class to prepare for the groupwork element of the assessment.

Outline Description of Module

How can we use the planning system to promote sustainable development? That is the question this module seeks to answer. Students will be introduced to key features of land-use planning and spatial planning systems, with a particular emphasis on the UK, but the module also draws on relevant international experience. From this platform, students will examine how far we can expect planning to help guide society towards more sustainable futures. A vital thread that runs through the module is the complex relationship between knowledge and decision-making, and debates surrounding the belief that we can achieve ‘more sustainable’ decisions with ‘better information’. This is counterposed with ideas about the importance of public engagement and political context in shaping how planning for sustainability turns out in practice. The second half of the module picks up these threads and introduces students to two key tools for applying environmental knowledge to decision-making: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Students will learn about these procedures whilst gaining a critical understanding of the extent to which these tools help to create more sustainable forms of development.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  1. engage in theoretical, practical and ethical debates at the forefront of sustainability and planning
  2. evaluate planning strategies and policies, in terms of their contribution to sustainable development
  3. demonstrate skills in policy analysis and evaluation, with particular attention to the critical reading of texts
  4. appreciate the ways in which planning is influenced by wider societal ideas about environment, nature, the economy and the public sphere.
  5. explain the different theories by which knowledge is believed to influence decision-making, and identify evidence from planning practice to assess these theories
  6. understand the ways in which EIAs and SEAs are undertaken, interpreted and evaluated

Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will familiarise themselves with EIA and SEA processes, the methods used, and their value as environmental planning and policy-making tools. Students will also practise and develop the following:

  1. Ability to critically analyse planning and policy processes
  2. Skills in group collaboration and oral presentation
  3. Written communication skills

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 85 Report N/A 1 N/A
Presentation 15 Group Presentation N/A 1 N/A

Essential Reading and Resource List

The following are useful introductory readings for the module as a whole. Each week, additional and more-up-to-date readings will be issued to support the topic being discussed, and these lists will be placed on Learning Central.

For the first half of the module:

Cowell R and Lennon M (2014) ‘The utilization of environmental knowledge in land use planning: drawing lessons for an ecosystem services approach’ Environment and Planning ‘C’: Government and Policy 32, 263-282.

Davoudi S, Crawford J and Mehmood A (eds.) (2009) Planning for Climate Change. Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation for Spatial Planners, London: Earthscan.

Grant J (2009) ‘Experiential planning: a practitioner’s account of Vancouver’s success’, Journal of the American Planning Association 75(3), 358-370.

Rydin, Y. (2010) Governing for Sustainable Urban Development, London: Earthscan

For the second half of the module:

Carroll, B.et al. (2009)Environmentalimpactassessmenthandbook: a practical guide for planners, developers and communities. ICE Publishing, 2ndrevised edition

Glasson, J,Therivel, R. &Chadwick, A (2011) Introduction to environmentalimpactassessment : principles and procedures, process, practice, and prospects. Routledge, 4th edition

Morris, P. and Therivel, R. (eds.) (2009) Methods ofenvironmentalimpactassessment. Routledge, 3rd edition.

Noble, B., Nwanekezie, K., (2016) ‘Conceptualizing strategic environmental assessment: Principles, approaches and research directions’, Environmental Impact Assessment Reviewhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2016.03.005

Owens, S., Rayner, T. and Bina, O. (2004) 'New agendas for appraisal: reflections on theory, practice and research', Environment and Planning A 36, 11, 1943-1959.

Partidario M and Clark, R. (eds) (2000) Perspectives on strategic environmental assessment.

Therivel R and Partidario M (eds)(1996) Practice of strategic environmental assessment London: Earthscan Publications

Background Reading and Resource List

Syllabus content

This module does not assume that all students will have a clear idea of what planning is. Consequently, it starts with an explanation of the basic elements of planning – in particular land use planning – and outlines theories by which planning might steer society towards sustainability: linear rational models; models based on collaboration; and models which see planning as important arenas for contestation and debate. These models are then mapped on to theories of how knowledge relates to decision-making. Subsequent sessions in the first half of the module then explore the role of planning in particular case study areas, such as greener building design. The ideas developed in the first half of the module are then applied in the second half to two specific decision-making tools: Environmental Impact Assessment (for projects) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (for plans, programmes and policies). Students are introduced to the basic steps and principles of these tools, including the requirements of European Union Directives, before critically appraising their effects on decision-making. All sessions are mandatory.

Copyright Cardiff University. Registered charity no. 1136855