Rafferty, Gavan

Examining the Intersection between Planning & Peace-building:
An evaluation of the role of urban governance & spatial planning in addressing Contested Space




School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering
Queen's University Belfast
Level 3
David Keir Building
Stranmillis Road
Belfast BT9 5AG
Northern Ireland


+44 (0)2890 974254


Current Research

On the surface, Belfast appears to be undergoing a transition towards peace – but it faces significant challenges on this journey. As the ‘contested city’ addresses regeneration, it also struggles to deal with the legacy of the ‘Troubles’, which has left a highly polarised and divided society.  The extent to which urban planning has entrenched itself within the straitjacket of physical and regulatory land-use planning, and related technocratic rational-comprehensive approaches, inhibits its creative response to the spatial outcomes of diversity, difference and equality.  The contention is that an improved integration of spatial planning and governance is imperative for a proactive approach to building shared space in a contested city, since current paradigms of planning and governance are flawed when dealing with divisions around territory and identity. To concur with Bollens (2002), the transformative role of planning and the planner has not been clearly articulated in contested cities. So, what planning responses—or better still, proactive approaches—could be propagated to minimize contestation in the city and facilitate greater sharing of space? Accordingly, this thesis focuses on the relationship of planning and governance in assisting reconciliation in the ‘post-conflict’ city, arguing that without such a paradigm shift, planning is as likely to accentuate as to ameliorate the socio-spatial divisions in contested space.

Supervisors: Prof Frank Gaffikin & Dr Ken Sterrett

Research Interests:

Role of spatial planning, regeneration and urban governance in post-conflict societies/‘contested space’; mediation and conflict resolution in the built environment; modernisation and reform of planning policy and practice; community planning and community engagement.


2004 - Masters of Science in Town and Country Planning (with Distinction) - Queen’s University Belfast
2002- Bachelor of Arts in (Hons) Geography - Queen’s University Belfast


Rafferty, G. (forthcoming) Embracing the creation of shared space: considering the potential intersection between community planning and peace-building. Space and Polity Journal.
Rafferty, G. and Gaffikin, F. (2008) Belfast: a City of Partners? Experience and Lessons from the Last Decade. Belfast: Queen’s University Belfast.
Rafferty, G., Gaffikin, F., McEldowney, M. & Sterrett, K. (2008) Public Space for a Shared Belfast: A Research Report for Belfast City Council.  Belfast: Belfast City Council.
Rafferty, G. (2006) Proactive planning seen as critical to tackle urban segregation issues, Planning (RTPI News) 8th September 2006.
Rafferty, G. (2004) EQIA: A Critique within Land-Use Planning. MSc. Town and Country Planning Thesis (Grade: 90%). Distinguished Unpublished Work. Queen’s University Belfast.

Conferences / Presentations:

Rafferty, G. (2012) Presented paper ‘Theorising the role of planning and planners in reconciling urban conflicts: The case of Belfast’, at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 3-5 July 2012, Edinburgh, UK.
Rafferty, G. (2012) Presented paper ‘Where planning meets peace-building: Embracing the creation of shared space through community planning’, at the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference: Building Communities – transforming neighbourhoods into community spaces, 11-13 April 2012, Brighton, UK.
Rafferty, G. (2010) Presented paper ‘Reshaping Our Future, Reconciling Our Past: the Potential of Spatial Planning and Urban Governance in Transforming Contested Space’, at the 24th AESOP Annual Conference, 7 – 10 July 2010, Helsinki, Finland.
Rafferty, G. (2009) Presented paper ‘A city of partners: Experience and lessons from the last decade in the contested city of Belfast’, at the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference, 7-9 April 2009, Chelmsford, Essex, UK.
Rafferty, G. and Sterrett, K. (2009) Presented paper ‘Planning and Designing Shared Space in a Contested City’, in the Community Planning and Decision Making in a Contested City—Lessons From Belfast, Northern Ireland track, Urban Affairs Association 39th Annual Meeting, Contesting and Sustaining the City: Neighbourhood, Region, or World? March 4–7, 2009, Chicago, USA.
Rafferty, G. (2009) Presented paper ‘Exploring the Potential Role of Urban Planning and Governance in Ameliorating Contested Space’, at the 3rd AESOP YA Meeting: Planning as Rear View Mirror or Crystal Ball? Feb 9-12, Vienna, Austria.


2004 - Awarded the Hawker Siddeley Prize – best thesis in the Faculty of Engineering, QUB.
2004 - Awarded the Royal Town Planning Institute Book Prize 2004 – best overall performance in the final examinations for the MSc in Town and Country Planning.
2004 - Awarded the Turley Association Prize 2004 – best thesis as part of a taught accredited postgraduate course in the School of Environmental Planning.


Teaching / Demonstrating:
Lecturer in Spatial Planning and Development
School of the Built Environment
University of Ulster

Work experience:

(Temporary) Lecturer in Spatial Planning, Queen’s University Belfast
Research Assistant at Queen's University Belfast
Planning Officer, Planning Service, Northern Ireland


Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

Professional networks:

RTPI NI Branch Executive Committee Member (Elected), (2003-present)
Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)
PlaNet (European Student Planning Network)
Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Additional information:

Co- founder of the RTPI Northern Ireland Young Planners’ Group
Former member of the judging panel for the RTPI – RSPB Northern Ireland Sustainable Planning Award for both 2008 and 2009
Past Chairperson of the RTPI Irish Branch (Northern Section) for 2009-2010