The Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning
School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering

McCarten, Alan

Mediation, Planning and the Divided City



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:

Planning practice operates in the midst of local and national concerns, dominated by ‘power-laden’ ‘socio-political’ interests. Inherently conflictual, debates surrounding the physical development / redevelopment of land are intensified in cities where the basic context is typified by division. Divided by ethno-religious and ethno-nationalist conflict, Belfast remains highly segregated - a consequence of the social construction of space that occurred during and after the troubles, and reflective of poor inter- and intra-community relations within the city. Planning has struggled to respond adequately to the complexities of (the political) conflict, tending to ignore the relevance of segregation and division to the planning process. More in, the tenets of the collaborative approach to planning prove problematic in the context of divided cities. Situated within the Northern Ireland context and cognisant of moves towards a new era of government and planning reform, along with the region’s engagement in post-conflict transformation, this research uses Belfast as a lens in which to evaluate how the parameters of mediation are capable of fulfilling the collaborative ideal in planning when dealing with the complexities of cities characterised by division.

Supervisors: Dr. Stephen McKay, Dr. Michael Murray and Prof Frank Gaffikin

Research Interests:

Conflict Resolution, Planning & Contested Space, Planning Practice & Procedure, Planning Enforcement


PgDip Spatial Regeneration with Merit, Queen's University, Belfast, September 2005 - June 2006
BSc. Environmental Planning with First Class Honours, Queen's University, Belfast, September 2002 - June 2005
Edexcel Level 5 BTEC HNC in Construction (Part-time), Southern Regional College, Portadown Campus, September 2008 - June 2010

Conferences / Presentations:

Towards design and application: an investigation into how mediation can complement existing planning practice, RICS Cobra Conference, 12-13 September 2011, Mary Seacole Building, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, Greater Manchester.
Beyond hesitancy: a suggestion for the transfer of mediation skills and practice to planning, 6th International Conference on Planning, Law and Property Rights, 8-10 February 2012, Hastings Europa Hotel, Belfast.


Planning Service Prize for Best Overall Student (Stage III) - June 2005


Department of Employment and Learning PhD Studentship Grant - October 2010

Work experience:

Professional Technical Officer, Northern Ireland Planning Service – June 2006 to May 2007
Technical Support Officer, Belfast Building Control – June 2007 to Present (on Career Break)


Affiliate Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute
Member of the National Association for Planning Enforcement