Urbanisation, Planning and Development

Research Cluster

We offer the highest concentration of specialist geography courses in the School which cover issues of urbanisation, planning and development in the major world regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and the UK, Latin America and North America.

Our courses provide students with the ability to become critical, reflective practitioners and leaders in their chosen fields.


We are the largest group of geographers at LSE working at the forefront of research on urbanisation, planning and development. Our courses provide students with the ability to become critical, reflective practitioners and leaders in their chosen fields. Our students have gone on to work in major international organisations, local and regional government, universities, NGOs, think tanks and top architectural and planning consultancies.

Research focus

Our internationally recognised research is both local and global in scope. One strand focuses on the social and spatial dimensions of urbanisation and development in cities of the Global South. The second focuses on the economics and politics of land use and planning in cities around the world. 

Our research engages broad theoretical questions but we also have a strong tradition of innovative, international and comparative fieldwork. We take seriously a place-based approach to research, which is foundational to our contributions to urban planning, urban studies and human geography. We are interested in global transformations and the human-level consequences that arise from them in different places.

Our current research addresses questions about cities, infrastructure, politics, class, migration, security, gender and race.

Central to our research and teaching are questions such as:

  • How do we plan for a rapidly urbanising world?
  • How does the urban travel across geographies? Do cities in the Global South provide an alternative source of imagining the urban?
  • How can infrastructure be planned and governed in a regional context?
  • How are interconnected forms of racial and spatial difference produced, reproduced, and transformed?
  • How is displacement and dispossession to be re-conceptualised?
  • How does global environmental change shape processes of urbanisation and development?
  • How do we understand violence and security in the cities of the South?
  • How do people conduct everyday lives in conditions of urban inequality?
  • Is the ‘feminisation of poverty’ more or less likely to persist as societies urbanise?


We are a unique and interdisciplinary group of scholars working at the interface of human geography, planning and urban studies. See a list of our staff and PhD students on the People page.

Seminar Series

The cluster runs the Urbanisation, Planning and Development Seminar Series. These seminars are organised by Dr Ryan Centner as part of a series of expert-led discussions. The seminars are open to all.

Summer School

The cluster runs 3 Summer School courses:

Links with LSE research centres

Staff in the cluster play a key role in LSE’s global centres and institutes. 

Professor Gareth Jones is Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Centre and a founding member of the International Institute for Inequalities.

Professor Hyun Bang Shin is Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Professor Claire Mercer is a member of the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa.


Research projects

Testing for acceptable higher-density suburban development

Staff involved: Nancy Holman, Jacob Karlsson, Alan Mace and Pablo Navarrete.

Progress to solve the London housing crisis means using the highly constrained land supply to accommodate the high demand for new housing, i.e. increasing density. One solution is to accommodate the required housing supply in higher density developments in traditionally low-density suburban areas. However,  this strategy is likely to meet resistance from existing residents slowing the delivery of required housing solutions.

 In this research, we are interested in understanding the contribution of building design to making higher-density housing developments more acceptable to suburban residents. Our hypothesis is that where higher-density development echoes traditional suburban elements it will be more acceptable. The research uses an innovative image-based randomised controlled trial technique to collect residents' views on simulated multiple density scenarios. In this experiment, participants will rate images containing diverse simulated suburban development allowing us to tests the significance of diverse design elements  (such as heights, roof-lines and the delineation of public and private space). As a result, we will build a set of building design policy recommendations to make new housing development more acceptable.

Fearing difference: perceived safety and ethnic differences in Milan, Italy

Staff involved: Nancy Holman, Alan Mace and Pablo Navarrete, Davide Zorloni

This research explores how people’s perception of safety in urban spaces relates to ethnicity. Urban safety has been increasingly tied to racialized dialogues about immigration. As the Italian state has shifted away from more collective views of society to one of individual responsibility, "danger" has been racialized in terms of protecting ‘good citizens’ from the ‘bad’ ones who are often portrayed as "disorderly" minorities and immigrants.

Using the case of Milan, we assess the relative impact of different ethnic compositions on declared perceptions of safety in a diversity of urban landscapes such as squares, alleys, high streets. Our hypothesis is that native-born white populations perceive safety through a racialized framing that interacts with urban spaces. To test this, we employ an image-based randomised controlled trial approach that uses photo simulation techniques to manipulate ethnicity composition in white-dominated urban spaces.  

Metropolitan Green Belt: Making more of the Metropolitan Green Belt

Staff involved: Alan Mace, Associate Professor of Planning & Fanny Blanc Policy Officer

The project will draw together academic and practice views on the purpose of the Metropolitan Green Belt.  The project promotes constructive debate on the purpose and future form of the Metropolitan Green Belt in the context of contemporary housing need and urban development planning in the region. It also asks how, in an era of localism, collaboration can effectively be pursued between different scales and authorities when reviewing the Metropolitan Green Belt.

We are seeking to identify the possibility of a more flexible approach to the Metropolitan Green Belt that supports a clear purpose but which recognises the need for flexibility given the complex and changing needs of London and the wider South East.

Visit the project website

Planning, value(s) and the market: An analytic for “What comes next?” – A paper on London boroughs fighting back on AirBnB and PDR

Staff involved: Nancy Holman, Director of Planning Studies; Alessandra Mossa, Oram Fellow; Erica Pani, Assistant Professor in Local Economic Development and Planning 

For 30 years planning has been attacked both rhetorically and materially in England as governments have sought to promote economic deregulation over land use planning. Our paper examines two new moments of planning deregulation. These are the loosening of regulation around short-term letting (STL) in London and the new permitted development rights (PDR), which allow for office to residential conversion without the need for planning permission. Whilst these may be viewed as rather innocuous reforms on the surface, they directly and profoundly illustrate how planners are often trapped between their legal duty to promote public values as dictated by national planning policy and the government’s desire to deregulate. We argue that viewing these changes through a value-based approach to economy and regulation illuminates how multiple and complex local values and understandings of value shape planners’ strategies and actions and thus vary national policies in practice. In so doing, the paper demonstrates how planners have, at least, the opportunity to develop a critical voice and to advocate for policy interpretations that can help to create better outcomes for local communities.

Visit the project website


Recent Research  


Centner, Ryan (2013) ‘Distinguishing the right kind of city: contentious urban middle classes in Argentina, Brazil and Turkey’, In  T. Samara, S. He, and G. Chen (eds) Locating the Right to the City in the Global South (London: Routledge) 

Chant, Sylvia (2016) ‘Women, girls and world poverty: empowerment, equality or essentialism?’ International Development Planning Review, 38:1, 1-24 

Holman, Nancy, Alessandra Mossa and Erica Pani (2018) ‘Planning, value(s) an the market: an analytic for ‘what comes next?’’ Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 50, 3, 608-626

Jones, Gareth and Dennis Rodgers (2016) ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants? Anthropology and the city’, Etnofoor, 28, 2, 13-32

Lees, Loretta; Hyun Bang Shin and Ernesto Morales (2016) Planetary Gentrification (Cambridge: Polity Press)

Mace, Alan (2018) ‘The Metropolitan Green Belt ‐ changing an institution’, Progress in Planning, 121, 1-28

Mercer, Claire (2017) ‘Landscapes of extended ruralisation: postcolonial suburbs in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42, 1, 72-83

Sanyal, Romola (2018) ‘Managing through ad hoc measures: Syrian refugees and the politics of waiting in Lebanon’ Political Geography 66, 67-75

Zeiderman, Austin (2016) Endangered city: the politics of security and risk in Bogotá (Durham: Duke University Press)

Fellows, past and present

Cowan, Tom (2018) ‘The urban village, agrarian transformation, and rentier capitalism in Gurgaon, IndiaAntipode 50, 5, 1244-1266. 

Evans, Alice (2014) ‘“Women can do what men can do”: the causes and consequences of flexibility in gender divisions of labour in Kitwe, Zambia’, Journal of Southern African Studies 40:5, 991-998. 

Lazzarini, Alicia H. 2017. “Gendered Labour, Migratory Labour: Reforming Sugar Regimes in Xinavane, Mozambique.” Journal of Southern African Studies 43(3): 605-623. DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2016.1197695

Luger, Jason and Julie Ren (eds.) (2017) Art and the city: Worlding the discussion through a critical artscape (Oxon: Routledge). 

Paccoud, Antoine and Alan Mace (2017) ‘Tenure change in London’s suburbs: Spreading gentrification or suburban upscaling?’ Urban Studies, 55, 6, 1313-1328.

Ryburn, Megan (2018) Uncertain citizenship: everyday practices of Bolivian migrants in Chile (Oakland, University of California Press). 

Sharp, Deen (2019) ‘Difference as Practice: Diffracting Geography and the Area Studies Turn,’ Progress in Human Geography 43, 5, pp.835-852.

Sundaresan, Jayaraj (2019) ‘Urban planning in vernacular governance: land use planning and violations in Bangalore, India’ Progress in Planning.

PhD Students

Antona, Laura (forthcoming) ‘Making hidden spaces visible: using drawing as a method to illuminate new geographies’ Area.

Birkinshaw, Matt (2016) ‘Politics, information technology and informal infrastructures in urban governance’, Economic and Political Weekly, 5, 57-63.

Gibbons, Andrea (2018) City of Segregation: 100 years of struggle for housing in Los Angeles, Verso. 

Koh, Sin Yee (2017) Race, education and citizenship: mobile Malaysians, British colonial legacies, and a culture of migration, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.  

Materka, Edyta (2017) Dystopia's Provocateurs: Peasants, State, and Informality in the Polish-German Borderlands, Indiana University Press (winner of Heldt Prize). 

Mohan, Taneesha  (2010) ‘Interrogating temporal and spatial negotiations: home as a gendered site for working women in Delhi”, S. Raju and K. Lahiri -Dutt (eds) Doing gender, doing geography: emerging research in India, pp152- 173, New Delhi: Routledge. 

Navarette, Pablo and Nicolas Navarrete (2017) ‘Unleashing waste-pickers’ potential: supporting recycling cooperatives in Santiago de Chile’, World Development, 101, 293-310. 

Pettit, Harry (2018) ‘Hopeful city: meritocracy and affect in Global Cairo’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Ramalho, J. (2018) 'Empowerment in the era of resilience building: gendered participation in community-based (disaster) risk management in the Philippines', International Development Planning Review. 

Suckling, Chris (2016) ‘Chain work: the cultivation of hierarchy in Sierra Leone’s cannabis economy’ Review of African Political Economy, 43, 148, 206-226.

Uribe, Simon (2017) Frontier Road: Power, History, and the Everyday State in the Colombian Amazon, Wiley Blackwell.  

Zhao, Yimin (2017) ‘Space as method’, City, 21, 2, 190-206.