CPT878 - Planning for Sustainability

SchoolCardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department CodeGEOPL0
Module CodeCPT878
External Subject CodeK400
Number of Credits20
Language of DeliveryEnglish
Module Leader Professor Richard Cowell
SemesterSpring Semester
Academic Year2016/7

Outline Description of Module

How can we use the planning system to promote sustainable development? That is the question this module seeks to answer. Students will be introduced to key features of land-use planning and spatial planning systems, with a particular emphasis on the UK, but the module also draws on relevant international experience. From this platform, students will then examine how far we can expect planning to help guide society towards more sustainable futures. Attention will be given to different models of planning: those which emphasise delivery against sustainability targets; those which emphasise collaboration; and those which emphasise learning.  A vital thread that runs through the module is the complex relationship between knowledge and decision-making, and debates surrounding the belief that we can achieve ‘more sustainable’ decisions with ‘better information’. The second half of the module picks up this thread and introduces students to two key tools for applying environmental knowledge to decision-making: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Students will learn about these procedures, step by step, but also gain a critical understanding of the extent to which these tools help to encourage more sustainable forms of development.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  1. engage in theoretical, practical and ethical debate at the forefront of sustainability and planning.
  2. evaluate planning strategies and policies, in terms of their contribution to sustainable development
  3. demonstrate skills in policy analysis and evaluation, with particular attention to the critical reading of texts
  4. appreciate the ways in which planning is influenced by wider societal ideas about environment, nature, the economy and the public sphere.

  5. explain the different theories by which knowledge is believed to influence decision-making, and identify evidence from planning practice to assess these theories

  6. understand the ways in which EIAs and SEAs are undertaken, interpreted and evaluated;

  7. evaluate the quality of Environment Impact Assessments



How the module will be delivered

The module will be delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops and in-class discussion groups. There will be two two-hour sessions each week, supplemented by additional workshops. Handouts will be made available for each session, summarising the material covered and suggesting additional reading. Handouts will be posted in advance on Learning Central. Powerpoint presentations will accompany most sessions. Only limited use of audio and video is made in this module.


During all sessions, there is an expectation of student input, either individual, or following in-class group work exercises. Students will always be given an appropriate amount of time to prepare for this input. In some weeks students will be expected to read and assess written material, or gather some information, which will be used in the following session. In weeks 2-4, students will be allocated time in class to prepare for the groupwork element of the assessment.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will familiarise themselves with EIA and SEA processes, the methods used, and their value as environmental planning and policy-making tools. Students will also practise and develop the following:

  1. Ability to critically analyse planning and policy processes

  2. Skills in group collaboration and oral presentation

  3. Written communication skills

How the module will be assessed

Report - 85%

Group Presentation 15%




The potential for reassessment in this module

Students are permitted to be reassessed (usually once) in a module which they have failed, in line with course regulations. The reassessment will usually take place during the summer.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 85
N/A 1 N/A
Presentation 15
Group Presentation
N/A 1 N/A

Syllabus content

This module does not assume that all students will have a clear idea of what planning is. Consequently, it starts with an explanation of the basic elements of planning – in particular land use planning – and outlines theories by which planning might steer society towards sustainability: linear rational models; models based on collaboration; and models which see planning as important arenas for contestation and debate. These models are then mapped on to theories of how knowledge relates to decision-making. Subsequent sessions in the first half of the module then explore the role of planning in particular case study areas, such as greener building design. The ideas developed in the first half of the module are then applied in the second half to two specific decision-making tools: Environmental Impact Assessment (for projects) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (for plans, programmes and policies). Students are introduced to the basic steps and principles of these tools, including the requirements of European Union Directives, before critically appraising their effects on decision-making. All sessions are mandatory.


Essential Reading and Resource List

Owens, S. and Cowell, R. (2010),Land and Limits,2nd edition, Routledge: London. (the 2002 edition is the same, it just lacks the new foreword and introductory chapter)

Background Reading and Resource List

The following are useful introductory readings for the module as a whole. Each week, additional and more-up-to-date readings will be issued to support the topic being discussed, and these lists will be placed on Learning Central.


For the first half of the module:

Blowers, A. (ed) (1993) Planning for a sustainable environment, TCPA/Earthscan.

Cowell R and Lennon M (2014) ‘The utilization of environmental knowledge in land use planning: drawing lessons for an ecosystem services approach’Environment and Planning ‘C’: Government and Policy 32, 263-282.

Davoudi S, Crawford J and Mehmood A (eds.) (2009) Planning for Climate Change. Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation for Spatial Planners, London: Earthscan.

Grant J (2009) ‘Experiential planning: a practitioner’s account of Vancouver’s success’, Journal of the American Planning Association 75(3), 358-370.

Rydin, Y. (2010) Governing for Sustainable Urban Development, London: Earthscan


For the second half of the module:

Environmental Assessment: a guide to the procedures.(1989) Department of the Environment. London: HMSO.

Carroll, Barbara & Trevor Turpin.  2002. Environmental impact assessment handbook: a practical guide for planners, developers and communities. London: Thomas Telford.

Glasson, John, RikiTherivel& Andrew Chadwick (1999) Introduction to environmental impact assessment : principles and procedures, process, practice, and prospects. 2nd ed. London: Spon Press.

Morris, P. and Therivel, R. (eds.) (2001) Methods of environmental impact assessment. 2nd edition. London: Spon Press.

Owens, S., Rayner, T. and Bina, O. (2004) 'New agendas for appraisal: reflections on theory, practice and research', Environment and Planning A 36, 11, 1943-1959.

Partidario M and Clark, R. (eds) (2000) Perspectives on strategic environmental assessment.

Petts, J. (ed.) (1999) Handbook of environmental impact assessment. Volume 1 and 2. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

Therivel R and Partidario M (eds)(1996) Practice of strategic environmental assessment London: Earthscan Publications

Weston J (ed.) (1997) Planning and environmental impact assessment in practice. Harlow: Longman.

Wood, C (1995) Environmental Impact Assessment, A comparative review. Harlow: Longman.

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