Contemporary Issues in Urban Development and Planning


This module explores contemporary aspects of the urban development process and the role of planning in mediating diverse interests in complex city environments.

It is designed to enable you to develop knowledge and skills that will provide a foundation for pursuing careers in planning, property, urban design and related professional fields.

It begins by examining the development process, including property market dynamics and the roles of key actors.

It considers the tensions and trade-offs between developers, residential and business communities, and public sector interests, and how these are played out through the planning system.

Using case studies we look at how these trade-offs shape the development of the built environment in terms of mixed uses, urban design, public space and other respects.

The module takes a practical and applied approach to the topic. Students engage in hands-on work on development sites in Birmingham and the programme includes contributions from planning, property and urban design practitioners from the private and public sectors in the city.

In the second half of the module students undertake group project work in conjunction with planning and regeneration organisations in Birmingham.

These projects are based around real-life development and place-making processes in the city and the student work feeds directly into policy making activity in these areas.


  • Semester 1: 20 hours of scheduled lectures, presentation sessions, practitioner seminars, and site visit to the Jewellery Quarter district of Birmingham
  • Semester 2: project work in association with planning practitioners, combining 3 scheduled sessions at professional workplaces around the city (including final presentations) plus independent fieldwork and preparation


  • An individual report of up to 3,000 words on planning challenges and the mediation of contested interests in the urban development process (50%); this draws upon work undertaken for group site appraisal presentations in the autumn semester
  • A Planning Project (50% total); this comprises a group presentation to professional practitioners (10%) and an associated individual project report (40%)

Key skills

  • Report writing and layout for professional audiences
  • Site planning appraisal and analysis
  • Basic creative masterplanning for site development
  • Visual and oral presentation skills
  • Engagement with professional practitioners as clients
  • Project management and team work