Meredith  Whitten

Meredith Whitten

PhD candidate in Regional and Urban Planning

Department of Geography and Environment

About me

Meredith holds an MSc in Regional and Urban Planning from the LSE. She also earned a Master of Public Affairs with an emphasis in environmental policy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin.

Before beginning her PhD, Meredith had an 18-year professional career spanning the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She has worked as a policy analyst and advisor to the Texas State Legislature, a consultant for an economic development strategy firm, a public affairs officer for the Texas Department of Transportation, a research assistant for the Urban Land Institute-Europe and a writer for the Baton Rouge Business Report. She also worked as a policy analyst for The Wilderness Society, where she researched the effects of state and federal laws on federally designated wilderness areas.

Meredith currently serves as the planning advisor to the Covent Garden Community Association, the recognised amenity society for the Central London conservation area, and serves on the Greater London Authority’s Green Infrastructure Task Force.

At the LSE, Meredith teaches GY300, Theories of Regional Economic Development. She has received Teaching Excellence Awards for Inspirational Teaching (2017, 2018) and Feedback and Communication (2015), as well as the LSE Class Teacher Award (2017, 2018). She holds a full Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCertHE) and is a fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy.

Meredith has presented her research at academic and practitioner conferences and seminars, including the Association of American Geographers, the Royal Geographical Society, the Canadian Association of Geographers, the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and UT-Austin’s Department of Geography and the Environment, the UK Association for Public Service Excellence, and the LSE’s Urbanisation, Planning and Development research cluster. Meredith has organised sessions on urban green space at the AAG Annual Meeting every year since 2013.

She has contributed to the LSE’s Sustainability blog, the HEIF Metropolitan Green Belt research project and Urban Vignettes, a collaborative visual-blog about how people engage with city life. Additionally, she was a finalist in the AAG Landscape Speciality Group’s 2018 photo competition and a finalist in the LSE Research Festival’s poster category.

She is actively engaged with her research topic across social media as @urbanparksgirl.

Research interests

  • Urban parks and green spaces
  • Green infrastructure and urban greening
  • Urban planning and policy
  • Environmental governance
  • Compact city and urban density
  • Privatisation of public space

Methods used/expertise 

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Archival research
  • Site observation

Thesis title and short abstract:

Reconceptualising green space: Planning for urban green space in the contemporary city

Lauded for their economic, environmental and social benefits, urban green spaces are presented as a policy and planning panacea, buoyed by a heightened awareness of the role nature plays in addressing contemporary urban challenges, such as climate change, chronic health conditions and waning biodiversity. However, in practice, urban green spaces are not meeting this full potential. Instead, a conceptualisation of green space grounded in heritage has led to institutionalised planning, governance and funding processes that embed a path-dependent way of thinking about green space as conduits to the past rather than as essential elements of a multifunctional, interconnected system of green infrastructure. Using qualitative research conducted in London, this research identifies three processes of change that, collectively, may break the path dependency: changes in understanding of environmental systems, changes in population, demographics and preferences, and changes in governance. Together, these forces may be opening the door to reconceptualising green spaces as critical urban infrastructure.

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 Teaching record

- GY300, Theories of Regional Economic Development, 2012-2018
- GY144/244, London’s Geographies, 2018
- GY308, The Economic Geography of Growth and Development, 2019
- GY327, Global Environmental Governance, 2019

Teaching awards: Inspirational Teaching (2018, 2017); Feedback and Communication (2015); LSE Class Teacher Award (2018, 2017)

Academic supervisors

Nancy Holman
Alan Mace

Publications 

  • “Blame it on austerity? Examining the impetus behind London’s changing green space governance.” Submitted to People, Place and Policy, July 2018.
  • “‘Encapsulating the countryside:’ Limitations to conceptualising urban green space as green infrastructure,” (in progress). Plan to submit to Landscape & Urban Planning, autumn 2018.
  • “Urban green space as a Tardis? How the past influences green space planning in 21st century London,” (in progress). Plan to submit to Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, autumn 2018.
  • Green belt does not relieve pressure on London's urban green spaces,” HEIF Metropolitan Green Belt research project, Department of Geography & Environment, LSE, (blog for funded research project) , 2016