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

Philip Boland

Research Statement

1.          Urban Governance and Economic Development

This research explores the interface between urban governance and economic development, particularly how governance relations can impact upon the design and delivery of spatial economic policy. Theoretically it contributes to academic debates concerning the rescaling of the state, and in particular the current discourses on cities and city-regions as economic drivers and notions of contested governance. Another dimension analyses the social economy and community-based approaches to local economic development and spatial planning; looking in particular at concepts of the community and neighbourhood, the participatory processes of local governance and the degree to which spatial planning initiatives are genuinely inclusive of marginalised groups. On an empirical level it addresses the local application European Structural Fund policies with reference to Merseyside and Wales, and local economic development policy in Liverpool and Cardiff.

2.         Planning, Regeneration and the Contemporary City

This work explores the importance of globalisation, competitiveness, culture, creativity and branding debates in shaping the planning and regeneration of the contemporary city. Theoretically it critiques the theory-policy interface of spatial policy and planning, in particular unpacking the relationship between academics, consultants, policy-makers and planners and how this shapes urban regeneration and spatial planning in the city. In so doing it reveals the potential danger that major regeneration projects pose a real danger of creating identikit cities. It also questions the efficacy of current approaches designed to re-brand the city as space for consumption and entertainment, and the extent to which such strategies include some social groups yet exclude others. Another dimension looks at the importance attached to culture in spatial planning. This problematises culture-led regeneration in relation to Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture 2008 through deconstructing the hype of cultural transformation and urban renewal to reveal different definitions of culture, different geographies of culture and different cultural experiences.

3.         Images of Place and Identities in Place

This work engages with the construction of images of people and place, and the processes and contestedness of identity formation in the city. The research examines the construction of images of the city and its population, in so doing it explains how important events and processes, and their coverage in the media, lead to the creation of negative place imagery and social stereotypes. Another dimension engages more directly with the social construction of identity in the city, with specific reference to place, phonology and race. A novel contribution here lies in developing the theoretical concept of sonic geography to analyse the role a distinguishing vernacular plays in shaping local identity and the inclusivity and exclusivity of identities in place. In addition, this work highlights the territoriality, contestedness, layering and performance of identity and global and local factors that shape identity. The empirical focus of this work is the city of Liverpool and the different dimensions of the Scouse identity; in the future the aim is to extend this analytical coverage to include Belfast.

4.         Illegal Drugs Economy and the City

Planning and geographical research does not engage in any systematic way with the illegal drugs industry. This is all the more surprising since the cultivation, production, trafficking, distribution and use of illegal drugs is fundamentally spatial and affects the nature of social, cultural and economic life in the various spaces and places in the city. It therefore represents an important planning and geographic issue for academic inquiry and public policy. This research seeks to plug this research vacuum and has three dimensions. The first problematises the social construction of drugs in contemporary society and current drugs policies; the second addresses the spatial dynamics of the illegal drugs trade from the global to local scale; the third analyses the role of illegal drugs in cities, for example informal economies, alternative economic spaces, links to economic development and urban regeneration and the drugs-crime nexus. It also raises the challenges the drugs economy poses for public policy and spatial planning in the city. This work is innovative as it addresses these issues from a spatial-geographical perspective, something which is lacking in current academic debates.