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Official launch of the project report 'Making Space for Each Other: Civic Place-Making in a Divided Society'  

The official launch of the report 'Making Space for Each Other: Civic Place-Making in a Divided Society' by the Planning for Spatial Reconciliation project group took place on Thursday 28th April at 12pm. 

During the launch the main authors of the report presented the main research findings. In addition, a range of project partners and other stakeholders had an opportunity to speak. These presentations were followed by an Q&A session.

The report marks the official end of the research project 'Planning for Spatial Reconciliation'. However, the project team will endeavor to contribute to future policymaking and to disseminate the research findings to the (inter)national community.

The report can be accessed through the publications section on this website.  




Shared Space planning principles workshop, Assembly Buildings Belfast

This workshop, organised in coordination with the Department of the Environment, was held with the aim of informing the wider planning community in Northern Ireland about emerging research findings from the research project Planning for Spatial Reconciliation.  A set of 10 'Shared Space planning principles', which can be found under the resources published on this website, were presented to a wide range of planning professionals and stakeholders with the purpose of engaging them in a discussion about the relevance of planning in post-conflict Northern Irish society and the ongoing research that is conducted as part of the research project.

The workshop has provided the research team with useful insights that will be incorporated in the project's final report.




NORTH BELFAST: New Planning Potentials

On Tuesday the 10th of December 2013 a public event was held in Crumlin Road Goal regarding the devolvement of Northern Irish planning powers, and the potentials these changes have for addressing the issue of on-going division in Northern Irish society.

This event consisted of a workshop-led discussion among community and statutory stakeholders exploring alternative ways of planning and how such planning models can help deliver positive change for residents of North Belfast in the future.

The input of this event has provided the project team with some additional insight and has helped to shape the next phase of the project.




Queen's planning student present the outcomes of the 'Designing for Sustainable Communities' project in the Groundworks NI offices

A group of 28 Masters planning students presented their work from the 'Designing for Sustainable Communities' project in the Groundworks NI offices on Duncairn Gardens at 10 am on Thursday 9th of May.

The 'Designing for Sustainable Communities' project focusses on the potentials that urban planning has to offer when dealing with issues of division in the context of North Belfast. This years' presentations will be the second in a 3 year long case study that focusses on the North Belfast area, as part of the EU-funded project 'Planning for Spatial Reconciliation'.

This semester students have been focussing on 4 main themes:

1. Housing & Living Environment

2. Education & the Economy

3. Girdwood - A Way Forward

4. Co-ordination & Implementation

During the presentations, the students had the opportunity to engage with and extract ideas from local community stakeholders. The analysis and design proposals and the feedback and suggestions from community stakeholders will eventually help to inspire a publication on the potentials of urban planning for the North Belfast area.



16/10/2012 - 25/10/2012

Case study visit to New York and Chicago, USA

Prof. Frank Gaffikin and Dr. Ken Sterrett visited New York as part of their focus on international good practice in urban planning. Cities in the USA in general, New York and Chicago in particular, are characterised by high levels of spatial segregation that is often based on race and ethnicity. During this visit, Frank and Ken focussed on planning policies and community initiatives that help to overcome these segregation patterns. One of these policies is the HOPE VI programme that focusses on the gradual replacement of large social housing estates and the implementation of socially mixed housing schemes. Another focus was put on community initiatives such as Community Development Corporations, organisations that are set up and run by local communities, but at the same time are able to offer a wide range of services including care, housing and educational facilities. Both these examples could offer inspiration when it comes to adapting planning policies and introducing a community planning model for the New Councils in 2015.

As part of this case study visit, Frank and Ken met with community organisations such as the Harlem Community Development Corporation and Harlem's Children Zone, and with several academics from Fordham and Columbia Universities.



North Belfast: New Planning potentials workshop in the Indian Community Centre

This workshop-led discussion among community and statutory stakeholders is the first in a series of workshops regarding the future of North Belfast.

During the workshop students’ outputs from 'Designing for Sustainable Commuities' postgraduate course were presented in order to provoke a frank and open discussion around the issues that North Belfast faces today and in the future. It is hoped that the input will provide some additional insight into the North Belfast issues and will help shape the next phase of our project.

As an important element of the worshop, participants focussed on three questions during the roundtable disuccions:

What can community + spatial planning offer for the better development of North Belfast?

Can / should new planning  be used to address issues of division?

What is the most useful way the pilot project can inform / test / benefit imminent transfer of planning powers?


Other elements of the workshop included:

- a presentation on the potentials of a new planning model, by Dr. Ken Sterrett from Queen's University Belfast;

- the presentation of the outcomes of the Forum for Alternative Belfast's Winterschool on the issues around the development of a Cultural Corridor on the Crumlin Road, by Mark Hackett from the Forum of Alternative Belfast;

- contributions on the delivery of development plans, by expert guests Janice Morphet, visiting professor from University College London, and Ciaran Cuffe, from the Irish Green Party and former Minister of State of Planning in the government of the Republic of Ireland.



03/10/2012 - 05/10/2012

Case study visit to Nottingham

Between 3rd and 5th of October Dr. Ken Sterrett visited Nottingham as part of the Planning for Spatial Reconciliation project's attempt to investigate good practice in urban planning. Nottingham is one of a number of cities within the UK with a similar population size to Belfast. Based on the Oxford Economics Report for Belfast City Council on competitiveness (2010), it seems that, unlike Belfast, Nottingham has been able to repopulate its inner city area and thereby improve the liveliness of the city drastically.

Nottingham offers a good example of how the shift from 'land-use planning' to 'spatial planning' could impact the planning practice of the Northern Ireland's new councils. The Sneinton Market Neighbourhood Development Plan provides some inspiration as to how a new planning model might look like, a planning model in which 'place-making' instead of two-dimensional planning seems to be the norm.

From Ken's interviews with key players in the Regeneration and Planning offices of the Nottingham council, the need for leadership and multi-disciplinary teams seems to be a key ingredient when it comes to setting up successful planning departments in the new Northern Irish councils.


30/09/2012 - 03/10/2012

Case study visit to Birmingham

Prof. Frank Gaffikin visited Birmingham between 30th of September and 3rd of October as part of the project's focus on good practice in urban planning. Birmingham's City Council has struggled over the past decades to provide equal opportunities to all the minorities that make up this multi-ethinc city. Attempts have been made to include minority dominated neighbourhoods of the city in the general city planning strategies. Frank has met with several planning officials of the Birmingham City Council to discuss these attempts, and investigate which lessons can be learn for the Northern Irish context.

One example of the plans that adresses the issue of ethnic divisions in the city is the Aston Pride neighbourhood improvement strategy, part of the New Deal for Communities programme. This planning strategy adopts a multi-disciplinary approach that not only focusses on physical improvement of the area, but also tries to tie physical changes in with improvements in Health, Education, Employment, Community Safety, Housing & Environment, and Community Leadership.

See the Aston Pride 'Empowering Communities, Improving Lives' brochure


14/05/2012 - 25/05/2012

Academic visit to Israel

Between 14th and 25th of May Prof. Frank Gaffikin and Dr. Ken Sterrett together with PhD student Aisling Shannon visited Israel and the West Bank to engage with academics and community representatives from both  Israeli and Palistinian background on the much contested issues of statehood and spatial division between the Israeli and Palistinian citizens. Especially the role of urban planning and architecture in enforcing or easing spatial divisions, provision of access to land and resources, and the representation of statehood were high on the agenda.

The program included attending a conference on the role of planning and architecture in conflict areas, organised by the University of Tel Aviv. Other parts of the travel program were a visit to  East Jerusalem organised by the ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), a city tour of Jerusalem focussing on spatial divisions within the city, and visits to the Galilee region and the Golan Heights, the latter being a highly contested territory between Israel and Syria.



Public presentations of the student project “Designing for Sustainable Communities”.

Presentations of North belfast research analysis

Students have been presenting the outcomes of their North Belfast research analysis in the Groundworks NI offices on thursday 26th of April. The presentations were attended by a wide range of community representatives.

Students involved in the project have been analysing the area covered by the North Belfast Partnership on a number of topics: 1. physicality of space; 2. transport and movement; 3. key facilities adn spaces; 4. bottom-up initiative; 5. integrated planning and design; 6. education.

The project will be expanded with proposals for interventions and finalised towards the end of the academic year in June 2012. The final results will be combined in a booklet.


12/03/2012 - 16/03/2012

Academic visit to Cyprus

In the week from 12th to 16th of March Prof. Frank Gaffikin and Dr. Ken Sterrett from the Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning (ISEP) visited Cyprus to explore the issues around contested space between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

In Nicosia they met with planning academia and officials, and senior people from reconciliation agencies to discuss planning approaches towards sustainable development and reconciliation. Part of the programme was a tour with visits to the ‘Green Line’, which was established as a buffer zone by the UN as a temporary solution in order to deal with the growing tensions between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities, and which continues to divide the island state of Cyprus till the present day.

Another part of the tour was a visit to Famagusta, the main harbour city on the east coast of Cyprus, and presently under Turkish-Cypriot control. Here, the former Greek-Cypriot quarter of the city has been abandoned since 1974, and completely fenced off by the Turkish-Cypriot army, leaving the buildings within unoccupied and subject to the elements since the establishment of Turkish rule in the northern part of Cyprus in 1974.

Presently, the implementation of the Nicosia Master Plan represents a step towards reconciliation of the two main communities. The Nicosia Master Plan is the outcome of a bi-communal project that was launched by representatives from both communities in 1979 and has pulled resources together from both communities, resulting in a team of urban planners, architects, sociologists and economists working to deliver a long term plan for a sustainable development of the city.

See the Nicosia Masterplan



Designing for Sustainable Communities

This project seeks to explore the concept of sustainable community in the context of North Belfast. The project aims to take a strategic view of how an area such as North Belfast can develop a sustainable socio-economic and physical environment that can be shared and accessed by everyone.

In the context of Belfast, the issue of difference is spatially expressed in the geography of religious communities and also increasingly by social divisions. The former is most obvious in inner north Belfast where community areas are delineated by peace walls, murals, and through other markers of territory, while the latter are defined by gates and security doors.

In the developing context of a range of programmes, including: neighbourhood renewal and other regeneration initiatives; the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP); the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) agenda; and the Review of Public Administration (RPA),  there is a growing recognition that the notion of sustainable community now needs some new understanding and fresh ideas.

 (read the full project brief)

This project brings together three groups of MSc students from the School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering (SPACE) at Queen’s; one group studying urban design, one sustainable design and the other, spatial regeneration.



Official Project Launch

The research project 'Planning for Spatial Reconciliation' was launched on the 27th of January 2012 in the Canada room of the Queen's University's Lanyon Building.

Contact Information

  • Queen's University Belfast
  • School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering
  • David Keir Building
  • Stranmillis Road
  • BT9 5AG
  • 028 9097 5427

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