ABE 005

ABE005 | Planning Policy and Governance

Spatial Planning and Regional Design in Europe

This course is part of the European Postgraduate Masters in Urbanism (EMU).

Different combinations of methods and tools for regulating urban development are used across Europe. There can be noticeable differences in methods and tools between countries and sometimes even between regions in the same country. In addition, there are variations in attitudes about the need for regulating urban development across different countries and regions. These questions are fundamentally linked to societal values and cultures, which in turn affect the scope, power and culture of planning. The way planning is organised affects the distribution of costs and benefits of urban development to different groups in society. 

In practice, shaping territorial development through spatial planning and design can be complex and controversial, even in countries with a strong and effective government. Increasing mobility, the dispersal of economic activity, competing political priorities and market-oriented objectives present obstacles to coordinated development. While few people doubt the need for some form of planning, there is constant debate about who benefits and who loses.

The course draws heavily on practice in Europe, particularly the Netherlands, but also considers some examples from around the world. In recent decades, spatial planning in many European countries has become more strategic, seeking to coordinate diverse influences on territorial development. The emphasis has been on attempts to reconcile the many competing goals for cities and regions, including economic prosperity, social cohesion and sustainable development. Spatial planning has also attempted to combine the aspirations of state, market and civil society in managing territory.


The key objectives of the course are:

  1. To address some deceptively simple questions (e.g. What is a plan? What are arguments for and against planning? How are plans made and by whom? What does participation imply? How can plans influence spatial development?).
  2. To examine experience in spatial planning in Europe and other parts of the world to gain a critical understanding of planning theory and practice.

Learning Aims

After completing this course students will be able to:

  • outline the main rationales of planning and explain why planning exists despite repeated challenges
  • understand some of the key methodological problems involved in spatial planning
  • distinguish between different styles of planning and their respective strengths and weaknesses 


The session topics comprise: 

  1. Key issues and concepts in spatial planning. Why do governments intervene? Goals of spatial planning: sustainable development, economic competitiveness, social and territorial cohesion, spatial equity and justice.
  2. Spatial planning in the Netherlands. History of spatial planning in the Netherlands. Key issues and planning concepts. Icons of Dutch planning.
  3. How does planning try to influence change? Tools of planning: visions, strategies, plans. The purpose and characteristics of strategy-making. Conformance and performance of planning.
  4. Traditions/styles of spatial planning. Planning traditions/styles in Europe. Comparing approaches in different countries.
  5. Spatial planning responses to social and technological change. How has planning been affected by and dealt with societal and technological shifts? Examples of industrialisation, sanitation, electricity, motorisation, automation.
  6. Citizens, stakeholders and interests. How conflicts and politics affect planning and what can planners do about it: participation, citizen engagement, and collaborative planning.
  7. Planning cultures and policy transfer. Diversity of planning cultures and the challenge of transposing lessons from one place to another.
  8. European influences on territorial development. Europeanisation of planning and the impacts of EU policies on territorial development.


Students are required to critically evaluate the contribution of spatial planning on territorial development in a chosen case study be located in a metropolitan region. The size of territory studied should have an area of between 1 and 5 km2. The case study should be chosen to reflect interesting questions related to the studio. The pattern of territorial development should be evaluated in relation to the content of past and current plans. 

The assignment will be assessed in the following ways:
A individual presentation in class 
B llustrated report of about 2,000 words

Key reading

Brownill, S. & Parker, G. (2010). Why bother with good works? The relevance of public participation(s) in planning in a post-collaborative era. Planning Practice and Research 25(3) 275-282, doi.org/10.1080/02697459.2010.503407 

Dühr, S. Colomb, C. & Nadin, V. (2010). European Spatial Planning and Territorial Cooperation. Routledge, London, www.routledge.com/9780415467742 

Evers, D., and Tennekes, J. (2016). Europe exposed: mapping the impacts of EU policies on spatial planning in the Netherlands. European Planning Studies 24(10) 1747-1765, doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2016.1183593 

Faludi, A. (2000). The Performance of Spatial Planning. Planning Practice and Research 15(4) 299-318, doi.org/10.1080/713691907 

Hall, P. (2014). Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design Since 1880. 4th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, www.wiley.com buy/9781118456477 

Hopkins, L.D. (2001). Urban Development. The Logic of Making Plans. Island Press, Washington, islandpress.org/book/urban-development 

Knieling, J. & Othengrafen, F. (2015). Planning Culture – A Concept to Explain the Evolution of Planning Policies and Processes in Europe? European Planning Studies 23(11) 2133-2147, doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2015.1018404 

Lane, M.B. (2005). Public Participation in Planning: an intellectual history, Australian Geographer 36(3) 283-299, doi.org/10.1080/00049180500325694 

Netherlands MinE&M – Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment (2012a). 35 icons of Dutch spatial planning. MinE&M, The Hague, www.government.nl/binaries/ government/documents/leaflets/2012/12/19/icons-of-dutch-spatial-planning/iconsof-dutch-spatial-planning.pdf 

Netherlands MinE&M – Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment (2012b). RO calendarium. MinE&M, The Hague, www.rijksoverheid.nl/binaries/ rijksoverheid/documenten/brochures/2013/10/28/ro-calendarium/ro-calendarium. pdf

Nadin, V. & Stead, D. (2013). Opening up the Compendium: An Evaluation of International Comparative Planning Research Methodologies. European Planning Studies 21(10) 1542-1561, doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2012.722958 

Papa, E. & Ferreira, A. (2018). Sustainable Accessibility and the Implementation of Automated Vehicles: Identifying Critical Decisions. Urban Science 2(1) 1-14, http:// doi.org/10.3390/urbansci2010005 

Stead, D. (2012). Best Practices and Policy Transfer in Spatial Planning. Planning Practice and Research 27(1) 103-116, doi.org/10.1080/02697459.2011.644084 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (2008). Spatial planning. Key instrument for development and effective governance with special reference to countries in transition. UNECE, Geneva, www.unece.org/housing/ publications.html 

UN-Habitat (2015). International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning. UNHabitat, Nairobi, unhabitat.org/books/international-guidelines-on-urban-andterritorial-planning 


11 September 202010:15 - 13:15Online
18 September 202010:15 - 13:15Online
25 September 202010:15 - 13:15Online
      2 October 202010:15 - 13:15Online
    16 October 202010:15 - 13:15Online
    30 October 202010:15 - 13:15Online
  6 November 202010:15 - 13:15Online
13 November 202010:15 - 13:15Online



How to enroll

Please send an email with your name, mail address, start date, research group and title of your research to abe@tudelft.nl

Course Info

Course code
ABE 005

Course type
Lectures, workshops, seminars and presentations

Most appropriate for
PhD candidates at all stages

Free for PhD candidates of A+BE Graduate School

Number of participants
min. 8 /max. 15

Name of lecturer(s)/coach(es)
Dr. D. Stead
Dr. M. Dąbrowski 

Course load

Graduate School credits


Once a year, from September 2020

Upcoming course dates and times
Fall 2020, see schedule

For further information, please contact Luiz De Carvalho Filho and emu-bk@tudelft.nl