Current Research Projects

The Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning (ISEP) has a very wide range of research projects built on strong international, interdisciplinary and theoretical references. The Institute has built a track record in scholarly, applied research and a wide ranging portfolio of publications, research grants and doctoral studentships. The Institute has built an international reputation and attracted a stream of major research funding.

Healthy Urban Living & Ageing in place: Physical Activity, Built Environment & Knowledge Exchange in Brazilian Cities (Hulap)

This 3-year project has been funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC ref. ES/N013336/1)) under the Newton Fund and the Brazilian National Council of State Funding Agencies (CONFAP).  It aims to enhance the conceptual and empirical understanding of the influence of built environment on physical activity (PA) of older adults and to develop evidence and policy tools for increasing PA and well-being of older adults in Brazilian cities through built environment interventions, enhance policy effectiveness and improve institutional collaboration.

The project takes an explicit comparative approach to research, which will primarily be focused on two case study cities: Curitiba in Brazil and Belfast in the UK, chosen because of the level of existing datasets and strong partnerships with key non-academic partners. It is anticipated that the project will enhance the capacity of researchers and other stakeholders in Brazil/UK and will deliver a wide range of research and policy-relevant outputs that include policy briefing papers, toolkits, audit tools, research protocols, academic conferences and presentations to local policy networks.


For more details of the project please see the HULAP website


Language of disaster: exploring the altered architectural fabric of Durbar Square, Kathmandu

On the morning of 25th April, Nepalese society encountered an unprecedented catastrophe in the form of an earthquake that resulted in more than 8,000 fatalities and countless injuries. Kathmandu, a city renowned for its buildings and monuments has witnessed extensive damages to its architectural heritage, and in particular to the three palace squares – Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which are part of the seven groups of monuments and buildings designated as World Heritage sites by the UNESCO. They have been the pillars for the shared sense of aesthetics embedded in the socio-cultural practices of this deeply traditional city. With one stroke of nature, the city has turned into what Calvino (1972) calls a ‘postcard city’ – a city it used to be.

Kathmandu is unique with its pagoda style temples, courtyard structures and distinctive buildings marked by striking brick work and wood carving. The significance, symbolism and status of these buildings exhibit monumentality, civic identity, representativeness, and festivities defining the visual and cultural environment for the city. The popular image of the city ‘as a place’ is derived out of this profuse collection of historical and cultural heritage buildings as well as the spaces and cultural activities that take place around them. In Basantpur Durbar Square alone, there are over 60 monuments and associated spaces interwoven by various hierarchical networks of chowks, nanis, lachhis. The loss of these buildings may therefore be interpreted as an assault on the individual as well as collective identity given these buildings and spaces carry significant religious, emotional and cultural value. It thus becomes pertinent to explore and explain the extent of damage; and how people view such violent reengineering of their city? How do people remember buildings and spaces and how what is remembered shapes reconstruction? It therefore calls for a careful re-evaluation of our relationship with city’s architecture and its symbiotic relationship with people, culture and religion. The research is underpinned by Zeky’s (1999) theory that ‘art is the function of the extension of the visual brain in its search for essentials’. We make a similar assumption about architecture to possibly explain how people respond to elements of architecture and visual art in a post-disaster context.

Durbar Square being an important part of everyday public space and activities,  it is important not only to map the extent of the damage that took place in its architectural fabric but go beyond it to understand the potential breakdown of its links with everyday activities and practices.

For details on the RIBA website click here

For more details please contact Urmi Sengupta


Catalysing & Characterising Transitions in Ireland

The shift to a low-carbon economy is not about achieving a definable end state, but a process of redirecting a wide range of factors (markets, infrastructure, governance, individual behaviour) towards a more sustainable configuration.  Such a process cannot be guided by a blueprint, as the extended timescales of such shifts mean that it will have to cope with uncertainties, ambivalent goals, political myopia and a danger of lock in, amongst other factors. Over the last decade, these issues have been brought together in multi-disciplinary academic research on transition management, which has emerged from studies of science, technology and innovation to conceptualise the co-evolution of technology and the societies of which they are part. Despite a growing body of research in this field, there is remains a lack of a clear conceptualisation of how transition management can be applied to the specific context of Ireland, given its specific range of actors and existing pathways for its energy system. This project represents an attempt to understand how transition can be most effectively understood and operationalised in the context of Ireland’s institutions and technological profile.

CC Transitions is an 18-months desk study funded under the Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland) Climate Research Call 2014. The project is being led by Prof. Geraint Ellis of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, with Co-Investigators Prof. John Barry (School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy) and Dr. Robin Curry School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering). Therese Hume is employed on the project as a Research Fellow. The project will develop an analytical framework for understanding energy transition in Ireland, which will help frame future EPA research in this area. The research will involve systematic reviews of existing research on transition management, will take a number of international case studies of energy transition and will map the state of transition of specific technological sectors in Ireland (for example, bio-energy). The overall aim is to benchmark the Ireland’s progress to a low carbon economy and identify future research areas to support this aim. The project is being rolled out through a series of working papers that will be available on the project website and culminates in the summer of 2017 with a series of high profile academic and policy-orientated seminars.

For more details please contact Geraint Ellis or Therese Hume



Denmark has the stated aim of becoming non-reliant on fossil fuels by 2050. To achieve this goal, the country will need to make huge investments in renewable energy. And whilst everyone is delighted with the potential environmental benefits, some citizens are less than thrilled at the thought of having to live close to the facilities that will be generating this renewable energy. What is more, people who live close to the power plants have sometimes found it hard to get their message across when voicing criticism or proposals.

The group behind Wind2050 are now out to change that, and because wind power has a key role to play in Denmark’s 2050 strategy, the group will initially focus on wind turbine projects.

Initially researchers will be collecting criticism of existing wind turbine projects in Europe, then will attempt to identify universal patterns and regional differences. Once this part of the project has been completed, they will use the huge data volumes to prepare recommendations for the energy policy of the future.

“We will start by mapping criticism, and ultimately—we hope—be making a considerable contribution to Denmark’s efforts to become non-reliant on fossil fuels with the least possible uncertainty en route and the greatest possible satisfaction as regards both the overall Danish energy solution in 2050 and the separate projects,” Kristian Borch, Project Manager and Senior Researcher at DTU Management Engineering.

The project includes a wide range of partners throughout Europe and is supported by the Danish Council for Strategic Research to the tune of 20 million Krona. This significant sum reflects the way the project links innovative IT tools, financial models and sociological analysis that will have the potential to generate a radical change in the way major energy projects are planned and anchored in a democracy.

For more details please contact Geraint Ellis

Click here for the Project Website


Transformation of urban space in post-conflict Kathmandu: A case of Tudikhel

Urban open space(s) in Kathmandu have been an important part of the city’s urbanism. Historically they have played an important role in city-building processes through their roles as spaces for religious and cultural activities. Throughout the civil war period (Maoist insurgency between 1996 and 2006) they became material locations for political activities, and sites for protests and dharnas. In recent years, these spaces are occupied by street hawkers, informal sellers and individuals articulated by broader forces of neoliberalism. Using Tudikhel in Kathmandu, this research aims to capture the dynamics of urban space transformation through social, political and neoliberal interactions. It explores how spaces are constantly contested, negotiated in a post-conflict society and reordered through multiple interactions by studying trends in both pre and post conflict transformation and adaptation reflected in everyday space negotiation. The project is funded by BA/Leverhulme small research grant.

For more details please contact Urmi Sengupta

For the project website click here


Does area-based regeneration help to reduce poverty?

ISEP researcher Dr Jenny Muir is part of a team reviewing the relationship between area-based regeneration and poverty, as part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s development of an anti-poverty strategy for the UK. This literature review will seek to understand how area regeneration and poverty are linked theoretically; indentify and synthesise evidence on the effectiveness of past and current interventions in terms of both cost and outcomes; make recommendations for future anti-poverty strategies within the current UK social, economic and political context; and identify priorities for improving the evidence base on the capacity of area-based programmes to tackle poverty. Jenny will provide information about Northern Ireland. The project is led by Dr Richard Crisp at the Centre for Economic, Social and Regional Research, Sheffield Hallam University. Other team members include Sarah Pearson and Dr Tony Gore (CRESR), Professor Peter Tyler (University of Cambridge), Professor Douglas Robertson (University of Stirling) and Professor David Clapham (University of Reading).

Final report is available here

For more details please contact Jenny Muir


From Plantation to Peace: Derry/Londonderry as the UK's first City of Culture

Dr Philip Boland (PI) in association with Dr Brendan Murtagh (CI) and Professor Peter Shirlow (CI, School of Law) have been successful in securing research funding of £197,819 for ‘From Plantation to Peace: Derry/Londonderry as the UK's first City of Culture’ project. Full funding has been received from the Leverhulme Trust. This is a 3 year inter-disciplinary project that links environmental planning, politics and cultural studies.

The study aims to determine how events such as the City of Culture will in practice help to overcome seemingly intractable cultural differences. This project sets out to unpack, investigate and problematise the City of Culture concept and how it intends to create a more peaceful, equal, respectful and shared city. The key research question concerns the extent to which culture becomes a transformative vehicle for peace-making and conflict resolution in Derry/Londonderry.

For more details please contact Phil Boland


The Cultural Heritage of Pilgrim Itineraries - The Camino de Santiago

This two years research project seeks to explore the contemporary development of pilgrim walking trails in Spain that are associated with the Camino de Santiago heritage complex. Building on earlier expeditions between 1994 and 2009, the project is examining the Camino Frances as an internationally recognised mature pilgrim itinerary and comparing it with the emergent Via de la Plata route. The former stretches westwards some 800k from Saint Jean Pied de Port in south west France to Santiago de Compostela; the latter some 1,000k northwards from Seville to Santiago de Compostela. In October 2012 ISEP researcher, Michael Murray, completed fieldwork along the initial 300k stage of the Via de la Plata walking itinerary from Seville to Cacares. Thus far, baseline research papers on the Camino de Santiago have been published in the academic journals Tourism Management and Ecumene.

For more details please contact Michael Murray


Knowledge Exchange, Spatial Analysis and Healthy Urban Environments

KESUE is a 12 month project that aims to take existing academic research on measuring the walkability of the built environment and seek applications in the real world. As part of the PARC Study a GIS based network of all the footpaths in East Belfast (the Real Walkable Network, RWN) was created.  Using Network Analysis areas of poor pedestrian access can be investigated.  In addition to this, the RWN can help identify priorities for promoting increased physical activity as well as a range of other uses.

The KESUE project aims to extend the RWN across the whole of the Belfast while creating a new network in the Derry City Council areas while working work with the project partners to explore the ways in which this can be developed as a tool for supporting policy and service delivery in a range of areas.  Such applications are thought to include but not cease at the management of open space, active travel, regeneration and accessibility studies for the delivery of council services such as leisure centres.

  • Develop the Real Walkable Network and associated Walkability Model as a policy support too for increaing physical activity in the cities of Belfas and Derry, including expaanding the coverage of detailed elements of the GIS too to encompass both these local authority areas
  • Further develop the analytical functions of the Walkability Model and associated data to alight with specific council iniateive, including improved park management, increased

For more details email: Geraint Ellis

For the Project Website click here


The new waterfront: who benefits?

Many cities have waterfront areas which have been redeveloped or are in the process of redevelopment, following a regeneration model based on increasing asset values and creating a new part of the city or its environs which can be used for the generation of profit by the private sector. The research will explore the hypothesis that a globalised neoliberal economy is leading to a new stage of waterfront development: the ‘competitive waterfront’, which aims for complete functional integration (if not always geographical integration) with the parent city through improved connectivity and flexible development options to maximise financing opportunities. The research questions are:

  • Has the nature of waterfront development changed in response to the economic downturn? If so, is this change sufficient to be able to theorise a new phase in waterfront development?
  • How has neo-liberalisation impacted on production, consumption and governance in waterfront areas? Who benefits from waterfront regeneration?
  • What is the contribution of private sector-led development to the economic and social health of cities?

The project is funded by the RICS Education Trust, for more details please contact Dr Jenny Muir or Dr Philip Boland.

For the final report click here


Regional Planning in Northern Ireland

In 2011 the Department for Regional Development published a new draft regional planning strategy for Northern Ireland that set out a proposed spatial framework for development across the region out to 2035. This applied research project commissioned by Antrim Borough Council, Banbridge District Council, Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, and Omagh District Council has included comparative analysis of strategic spatial planning in Wales, Scotland and Ireland and investigation of the ESPON database in order to inform their deliberations around the consultation  process .  The revised Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland - Building Our Future was published in 2012.    

For more details please contact Michael Murray


ESRC Seminars Series: The Big Society, Localism & Housing Policy

'The Big Society’ and ‘localism’ have become buzz words since the formation of the coalition government in 2010, and their influence can already be seen in housing policy and practice in the UK. This varies, however, depending on how devolved administrations and local authorities use their powers and budgets. A key aim of this seminar series is to understand the varied geographical impact of these ideas. Participants will learn about, and exchange ideas relating to, the latest research and theories about the role of housing in new planning and Big Society policy agendas, and their impacts on communities throughout the UK. The seminars will seek to benefit policymakers and practitioners and to disseminate findings. They offer an opportunity to extend existing working relationships and to establish new ones.

Seminar schedule

  • Seminar 1: University of Sheffield, 7-8 March 2013
  • Seminar 2: Queens University Belfast, 24-25 October 2013
  • Seminar 3: University of St Andrews, 13-14 March 2014

Click here for the Project Website or follow us @housingseminars on Twitter:

The organising team is: Dr Kim McKee (PI, University of St Andrews), Dr Jenny Muir (QUB), Professor Duncan MacLennan (University of St Andrews), Professor John Flint and Dr Ed Ferrari (University of Sheffield), Professor David Clapham (University of Reading) and Dr Tom Moore (University of St Andrews).


Third Sector Partnerships for Service Delivery:
Housing procurement and housing support services in Northern Ireland

This new research project builds on earlier collaboration between David Mullins (Third Sector Research Centre Service Delivery and Housing Lead with Dr Nick Acheson at University of Ulster (TSRC’s Northern Ireland partner) and Dr Jenny Muir at Queens University Belfast. A case study for the TSRC Third Sector Partnerships for Service Delivery project on housing partnerships in Northern Ireland was undertaken in Summer 2011. The case study focused on the two largest publicly funded programmes delivered by third sector organisations in Northern Ireland (Supporting People and the procurement of new social housing) and attracted the interest of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who have now funded a fuller follow up study by David, Nick and Jenny which will be completed in 2012.

The project is extremely timely in exploring the impact of policy changes under devolved government on the shape of the third sector in housing and the changing nature and form of resulting partnerships. As yet there has been little research into the impact of either Supporting People or procurement changes in Northern Ireland except the baseline study by this project team. The research will provide analysis and recommendations specific to the region, to inform policy and practice, whilst also both making use of and contributing to the UK literature. The project provides the opportunity to deepen our understanding of partnership impact by exploring the perspectives of large and small associations within procurement groups and different types of support and housing providers within Supporting People partnerships. This will provide a fuller understanding of the policy options and consequences of the NI Government’s role in relation to third sector housing partnerships.

Final Report is available here

For more details please contact Jenny Muir


With its partnership between Queen’s University’s Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning and the Planning Service and the Planning Policy Unit, this project has a unique opportunity to work with the existing Planning system, the Councils, and local community and civic interests in the ‘transition’ process, leading up to the policy and legislative change associated with the transfer of planning powers to the new Councils by 2014. In contributing to a strategic approach to building civic leadership at different levels – from the Planning Service to the Councils to local communities – it will work in partnership with all stakeholders to help:

  • develop the institutional capacities to re-think and reorganize planning to make it fit for purpose in building a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable and peaceful society.
  • specifically, help to make the building of a shared society a central feature of the new community planning and spatial planning; and
  • promote the linkage between local neighbourhood planning, particularly in the most isolated and disadvantaged communities, and the broader planning process, since a sustainable peace depends on the connection of such areas into the wider society.


Community Asset Transfer in Northern Ireland

Community Asset Transfer has been seen as a key part of the coalition government’s Big Society and ‘new localism’ politics. Whilst there have been significant developments in legislation, policy and financial investment across Britain, Northern Ireland lags significantly behind, despite decades of investment in the community and voluntary sector. This research, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and conducted along with Community Places, evaluates the current position of asset transfer in Northern Ireland, its impact and potential and how it can be developed in progressive and inclusive ways. The research sets out recommendations for the future including the need for stronger community property rights, a legislative right to buy and stronger skills to manage and upscale local projects. It also highlights the multiple, social and environmental benefits from a dedicated programme of support for responsible and responsive community asset transfer in the region.

Strathroy in Omagh has developed business units on land transferred by the Housing Executive producing surpluses for the local group to invest in social and environmental projects.

For more details please contact Brendan Murtagh


Research into the Impact of the Economic Downturn and the Rebalancing of Northern Ireland's Economy on it Neighbourhoods

ISEP researcher Dr Jenny Muir is part of a research team carrying out a three-year study into the impact of recession and the rebalancing of Northern Ireland’s economy on its neighbourhoods. The research is led by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University and the third partner is the University of Sheffield. The aims of the study are to:

  • Further understand and generate robust evidence of the longitudinal impacts of the recession and public finance reductions on different types of neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland, at individual household and community levels;
  • Understand how the trajectories, dynamics and outcomes of neighbourhoods are affected by risk, resilience and recovery factors and the relationships between these factors and social capital, collective efficacy and the stewardship, community development and entrepreneurism functions of residents and voluntary and community groups;
  • Use this understanding to inform policies which promote the resilience and recovery of deprived communities and facilitate the rebalancing of the social economies of neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland in order that the public, private and voluntary and community sectors can all contribute towards achieving the aims of the Lifetime Opportunities Strategy.

The research will be focused on three case studies of lower or mixed  income neighbourhoods, along with a comparator more affluent neighbourhood. Research methods will include: large scale resident surveys; in-depth interviews with key local stakeholders; in-depth interviews, photographic and diary keeping exercises with residents; and an assessment of the socio-economic contribution of the voluntary and community sector.

The research is being undertaken for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister as part of its Equality and Social Need research programme.

For more details please contact Jenny Muir


Housing, peace building and asset based regulation

This project makes a connection between regeneration, asset based development and community relations. It draws on the Housing Executive’s experience of the transfer of land, commercial property and dwellings to local communities to show how it has produced multiple physical, economic and community relations outcomes for both tenants and housing managers. The approach challenges ‘needs based’ strategies to highlight the advantages of asset frameworks to help develop more sustainable, adaptable and resilient communities. The research team geo-coded asset transfer projects to show: their concentration in areas of multiple disadvantage; comparatively even distribution across Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods; and impact on both urban and rural development objectives. Assets have levered resources from other agencies, stimulated social enterprises and enabled meaningful cross-community engagement but the research also shows a significant skills gaps in maximising the potential of these approaches across Northern Ireland.

The Suffolk-Lenadoon interface Group (SLIG) regenerated this peace line based on an initial transfer of land and property to the local group. The photos show the area before and after the development project.

For more details please contact Brendan Murtagh


Poverty and Ethnicity: a review of the evidence

Dr Ruth McAreavey is part of the research team that has been commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to undertake a review of the evidence relating to poverty and ethnicity in Northern Ireland. Along with a research team from the Centre for Housing Studies at York University the review will systematically search and appraise the evidence base on:

Pathways into poverty;

Experiences and consequences of race, identity, and poverty;
Barriers to escaping poverty; and
Effective policy interventions to overcome obstacles to mobility and inclusion.

An important component of the review will involve research users and subjects to help shape the focus of the review. The research will involve a number of focus groups with individuals from different ethnic groups in Northern Ireland as well as discussions with key advocacy groups and service providers. Their participation will also be critical in testing the findings of the review against their knowledge and experience to identify the strength of the evidence base and to prioritise any significant gaps.

If you would like further information, please contact Dr Alison Wallace or Dr Ruth McAreavey


Responding to Climate Change: India-UK Perspectives

Climate change requires a range of urgent international responses, however as the negotiations at Copenhagen in December 2009 highlight, agreeing a multi-lateral consensus faces major challenges. In such a context, the development of trans-national understanding of climate change impacts and responses offers an important contribution to the development of a broader agreement. Both the UK and India play important roles in the emergence of a common climate change response, India is the world’s second most populous country and faces dramatic rates of development, with associated global consequences for greenhouse gas emissions. While the UK is the first country in the world to adopt a legally binding framework for meeting climate change targets, as well as being a critical player in setting the climate change policy of the EU, the largest economy in the world.

In this context, academics from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and a range of Indian partners explore areas of mutual understanding and cooperation the field of climate change responses.

The aims are:

  • To stimulate a UK-India cross-national understanding of the policy and research priorities for climate change action in the built environment and related disciplines;
  • To stimulate UK-India exchanges amongst academic staff and students around the theme of climate change;
  • To stimulate research collaboration between QUB and leading Indian researchers in the field of climate change responses.
  • To act as a catalyst to further climate change events involving UK and Indian researchers.

Click here for the project website

or contact Geraint Ellis for more details


CU2: Contested cities and urban universities

This project is structured into four main themes that are designed to: Investigate the interface between regeneration and reconciliation in a contested city like Belfast.   Investigate the structure and culture of collaboration within and among the three tiers of city governance; Build a University-Community Partnership in Belfast and assess its development and impact; and Investigate the most appropriate model and rationale for a systematic social economy in Belfast.

Please contact Frank Gaffikin or Ken Sterrett for more details


UK-India Perspectives on Planning and Architecture Education

The increasing globalised context for higher education poses a range of opportunities and challenges for individual institutions and the delivery of professional education. The built environment disciplines, particularly planning and architecture have enormous potential to benefit from increased international links which can result in increased student and staff mobility and wider educational benefits such as of curricula enrichment, enhancement of learning experiences and pedagogical innovation. Yet, despite the emergence of growing global discursive communities based on the built environment professions, the level of pedagogical debate and exchange between institutions in different cultural and geographic contexts has been disappointingly low. 

The India-UK nexus is a particularly interesting one in this context; both have vastly different professional and education-focused challenges with varying resource availability, yet have the potential for robust institutional partnerships based on lasting cultural links, shared models of higher education and an ability to support learning through the medium of the English language. 

In this context, a two-day seminar was held in Delhi in August 2010, bringing together academics and students from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), one the UK’s leading universities, with a range of Indian partners. This provided an opportunity to engage in pedagogical reflection on the current challenges to built environment education, to consolidate ongoing institutional relationships and to help disseminate these experiences of international partnerships to a broader UK and Indian audience.

The aims of the seminar were:

  • To foster trans-cultural reflection on the nature of planning and architectural education in an increasing globalised professional and educational context.
  • To promote pedagogical engagement as part of universities’ internationalisation strategies for education in the built environment.
  • To engage students in the understanding of the cultural and pedagogical contexts for planning and architectural education in UK and India.
  • To agree specific actions, such as future joint projects and collaboration, with the aim of establishing an UK-Indian planning and architecture forum.

This seminar was organised by the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi and the Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), one the UK’s leading universities. It has been financially supported by the innovative projects fund of the Centre of Education in Built Environment (CEBE). 

The seminar was based around three key themes:

  • The fostering of a common understanding of the challenges to built environment education in the UK and India. [link to theme in programme]
  • A sharing of experience in specific issues in planning and architectural education, such as studio culture, live projects, professional skills, research-led teaching and the identification of issues of mutual concern. [link to theme in programme]
  • The development of a forum for ongoing discussion and sharing of good practice in the pedagogy of the built environment. [link to theme in programme]

It is hoped that this event will form the start of an ongoing relationship between UK and Indian researchers and it is hoped to update this via this website.

Click here for the project website

or please contact Geraint Ellis for more details


Delivering Renewable Energy Under Devolution

‘Delivering renewable energy under devolution’ is a two year research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-062-23-2526). The aim of the proposed study is to assess the impacts of devolution in the UK on the provision of renewable energy, addressing in particular the following questions:

  1. To what extent has devolution affected the provision of renewable energy, in terms of the ways in which the devolved administration have formulated policy objectives, adjusted the choice, nature and settings of policy instruments, and influenced the delivery of new renewable energy capacity?

  2. To what extent have the devolved institutions made different use of the powers and capacities for promoting renewable energy bequeathed to them by the devolution process, and how might we explain any tendencies towards divergence or convergence?

  3. What lessons can be drawn for institutional design in the effective delivery of renewable energy from the experiences of governments across the UK to date?

The study runs for two years, from 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2012. The research is being led by the School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University (Dr Richard Cowell), in partnership with Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning at Queens University Belfast (Dr Geraint Ellis), Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen (Professor Peter A Strachan) and the University of Birmingham (Dr David Toke).

Click here the project website at Cardiff University

or contact Geraint Ellis for more details


Planning shared space of a shared future

'Planning Shared Space of a Shared Future' is a multidisciplinary research project established to examine the relationship between changing demography, identity and territory in Belfast, and the role of planning in promoting shared space as a crucial component of a sustainable shared future for the city. In short, this is a participatory action-research project undertaken in partnership with research subjects and designed to impact on policy formation. Moreover, it is inter-disciplinary and comparative in perspective and operation.

This work has been extended with a recent ESRC award into planning methodologies and skills for managing shared places. The work has developed resources, conceptual frameworks and methods to better manage single identity communities as well as opportunities for tackling enclaving and territoriality.

Please contact Frank Gaffikin or Ken Sterrett for more details


The Retirement Transition and the Celtic Fringe: Mobility Trends and Migrant and Rural Community Well-being

Funding has been received from the ESRC (£220,000) for this two-year project, which began in Dec 2008. (RES-062-23-1358) The project seeks evidence of a retirement transition affecting the mobility patterns of the 50-64 year old age group within the UK’s Celtic fringe. The retirement transition concept refers to the behavioural changes affecting pre-retirement age groups, and assumes that the expectation of retirement acts as a catalyst for change, including a change of residence.  Such migration is commonly associated with peripheral and scenically attractive areas. Accordingly, the project focuses on rural areas of Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. It has two main aims – to examine the retirement transition concept and to evaluate its consequences for an ageing society, individual migrants and rural destination communities.The methodology involves four main stages.

An analysis of Census datasets to explore the migration patterns of the 50-64 age cohort. Datasets will include – Special Migration Statistics and Northern Ireland Longitudinal Survey. Data relating to rural areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be analysed.

A household survey and migrant interviews. These will examine the characteristics, origins, decision-making processes, and consequences associated with pre-retirement and other migration flows. Surveys and interviews will be conducted in rural Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A postal survey of non-movers. This will focus on the migrants’ areas of origin and seeks to determine reasons for not moving (by those age 50-64 years).

Interviews with local service providers and local/national policy-makers. These will consider the policy implications of retirement transition migration on an ageing society, rural communities and migrant well-being. A series of stakeholder seminars will also be arranged.

For more information contact: Prof Aileen Stockdale

Click here for the Project Website


Healthy Ageing in Rural Communities Research Network (HARC)

HARC is a cross border initiative funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) and seeks to bring together expertise on rurality and ageing from Ireland and Northern Ireland for the purpose of information sharing and the generating of research capacity. HARC network members contribute interdisciplinary perspectives on the social, health, geographic and economic aspects of ageing and rural living and draw from staff at Queen's University Belfast, NUI Galway, Rural Community Network, Health Services Executive and Forum Connemara. Two major research awards from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) have allowed for island of Ireland assessments of what it is like to be an older person in contemporary accessible, remote, island and cross border rural communities.

Click here for the project website

For more details please contact Michael Murray


Alternative economics and social inclusion

With welfare retrenchment coupled with a deep property recession, the prospects for the most disadvantaged areas and groups look bleak. This £75,000 research project aims to explore the potential of alternative economics, especially for the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Non-monetised trading, social enterprises and preventing financial leakage all aim to produce resilient and more adaptable communities. However, the role of social economics in local development and adjustment is a contested one. For critics, it is complicit in neoliberal policies and practices whilst for others it is a reformist space, capable of providing even the most disadvantaged communities with the resources to resist uneven and oppressive economic change. The research uses survey data, case studies, in-depth interviews as well as an analysis of international practice to explore its theoretical and policy relevance. The research highlights the need to expand social finance, intermediation and investment readiness skills in order to embed emancipatory versions of social economics across the region.

Ashton Community Trust, a successful social enterprise providing jobs,
community services and social programmes in inner North Belfast.

Landmark East, leading ethical property development in east Belfast.

For more details please contact Brendan Murtagh


SPAN (Strategic Planning Action Network)

The SPAN project is an EU INTERREG funded project that involves practitioner and university partners in the UK, Republic of Ireland, France and Belgium. In Northern Ireland it explores the relationship between countryside housing and the achievement of local development in rural areas. Moreover, given that local development in this context is about looking creatively at ways to improve the existing physical and human resource base, community-led initiatives are central to meeting that challenge. The principal task in this project is to design with rural communities a series of local planning frameworks that are premised around community preference and environmental responsibility. It is envisaged that the output will be of value to the host communities and to the multiple stakeholders in the wider rural planning policy arena.

Key outputs from the Queen's University Belfast and Rural Community Network team working on this project include a participatory methodology for community engagement in rural planning, and an analysis of the interaction between rural planning and rural enterprise.

Click here for the project website

For more details please contact Michael Murray, Stephen McKay or David Houston


Migrant Workers in Northern Ireland - A Pilot Study

This research is funded by the Nuffield Foundation to examine the examine the experiences, aspiration and expectations of migrant workers’ in Northern Ireland. Proportionately Northern Ireland has experienced the largest increase of migrant workers within the current migration wave. Little is known about the lived experiences of these groups of people. By focusing on participation in civic life, support networks, access to primary healthcare and quality of life, his research will determine issues affecting migrant communities’ wellbeing. The findings from the research will inform policymakers, researchers and stakeholders as well as providing the basis of a larger research project.

For more information contact: Dr Ruth McAreavey


Irish Social Sciences Platform

ISSP is an island of Ireland platform of integrated social science research and graduate education focusing on the social, cultural, economic and spatial transformations affecting Ireland in the 21st Century.  The initiative is funded to the order of €16.5 million by the Higher Education Authority under the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions. It brings together 8 institutions and 19 disciplines, including spatial planning and development. The partners are Queen’s University Belfast, NUI Maynooth, NUI Galway, University College Cork, Dublin City University, Sligo Institute of Technology, Mary Immaculate College, and University of Limerick.  A  major focus of ISSP research is on "balanced development". 

A spin-out initiative from ISSP has been the establishment of the Irish - Scottish Forum for Spatial Planning that has delivered, thus far,  four international conferences on spatial planning, rural development, border regions and Titanic heritage. These events have been convened with support from Queen's University Belfast,  University of Aberdeen  NUI Maynooth and  University College Dublin.  A fifth event is scheduled for 31 May 2013 on the theme of "Sustaining Small Island Communities" and will be hosted by Queen's University Belfast.

Click here for the project website (off-site link)

For more details please contact Michael Murray


Skills for Managing Spatial Diversity

This research project is a response to a joint invitation by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC) into the development of skills for areas such as spatial planning, social renewal and local; sustainable development. The study aims to open a debate about the skills needed to develop sustainable places and communities in Northern Ireland. The Sustainable Communities agenda has not translated to the regional context with the same pace as the rest of the UK although elements of the broad conceptual approach are recognised in initiatives such as Neighbourhood Renewal, Renewing Communities and the Rural Development Programme. The research informs our on going course development in sustainable communities and argues for a stronger policy context for the development of skills in the region.

Click here for the Project website


Women's Land Army

Linda Price has received a grant from RGS/IBG to conduct research with women who worked in the Women’s Land Army and Timber Corp during World War Two (WLA).  A civilian organization that after years of campaigning were finally awarded with a badge from the Queen in 2008 and allowed to March in the annual festival of remembrance.  Knowledge of the work of the WLA has also been heightened by recent films on television. From 1941 the WLA was one of the options available within female conscription in England, Wales and Scotland.  The project engages with the comprehensive war time planning in relation to food production that was required in order for the country to be self-sufficient.  For the first time food production was centralized and through incentives farmers informed of what they should grow, where and when through a network of Ministry of Agriculture representatives.

Such comprehensive planning for the countryside, it is suggested, has been overlooked within planning which has tended to have an urban bias.  Often notions of comprehensive planning has  been viewed through a focus on post-war city reconstruction  The project aims to begin to redress this bias by talking to women, many of whom will be in their eighties at least, about their experiences.  Most of the women were from cities and the work and living conditions they were faced with presented them with considerable challenges.  Not least was convincing the farmer’s who privatly employed them that they could do the job and replace the many farm workers who left for the higher wages of the armed forces

The women took on skilled and tough manual work.  Often they were the first people to be able to drive tractors which were hastily imported to increase food production.  The extent to which the women felt they were contributing to war time food production through ‘feeding the nation’ will be explored through life history interviews in three case-study locations in England, Scotland and Wales.  The extent to which the women experienced the hostility of younger farming men kept on farms as farming became a ‘reserved occupation’ and had to work with prisoners of war will also be investigated.  Three key areas will be examined in the project providing a springboard to a larger research application providing international comparative perspectives to food planning/production during the Second World War in Canada, New Zealand and Australia where the WLA also operated: 1) The opportunities for work outside of expected norms comprehensive planning/ food production provided 2) The opportunities to develop a range of relationships and the challenges of an urban/rural dichotomy 3) How the women remember their roles in war-time food production and how they this impacted on their post-war lives.

For more details please contact: Linda Price