Contemporary Planning Systems URBAN5081

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course acquaints students with the nature, purpose, theory, organisation and processes of spatial planning. Spatial planning seeks to give a geographical expression to economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society. As a system of governance that is concerned with mediating space and making places, spatial planning grapples with issues that involve complex geographical, legal, environmental, economic, social, and political factors. Cotemporary Planning Systems (CPS) introduces you to the complex and contentious world of urban spatial planning. Not only does CPS familiarise you with the institutional and legal context within which planning takes place; it also helps you development critical perspectives on planning systems, how they have evolved and why they function the way they do. To this end such CPS introduces and critically engages contemporary planning practices, debates, controversies, issues and concerns. It critically retraces the history of planning and explains this has shaped contemporary systems and practice. While special reference is made to the UK in general, and Scotland in particular, the course has an integral comparative dimension where international planning systems will be considered. CPS lays the essential groundwork for Spatial Planning Practices (SPS) which is taught in the second semester.


The course will be delivered in 3 hourly blocks, once per week, over 6 consecutive weeks.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements:


Excluded Courses






This course will be assessed through an individual essay or report of maximum 2,500 words on a topical spatial planning issue.

Course Aims

The course aims to acquaint students with the nature, purpose, theory, organisation and processes of spatial planning.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ describe and critique the nature and scope of spatial planning;

■ evaluate the context and influences in the historical development of spatial planning;

■ review and assess the institutional framework for spatial planning;

■ recognise the political nature of decision-making in planning, and the need to develop the ability to work effectively within democratic decision-making structures;

■ explain the importance of engaging & communicating with (by appropriate & varied means) a diverse range of interests, and understand the role and importance of stakeholder involvement & public participation in the planning and development process;

■ interpret and evaluate the legal framework for spatial planning including planning and environmental law;

■ examine and appraise the development planning and management system in Scotland,

■ judge and formulate coherent arguments on contemporary issues in spatial planning;

■ evaluate the case for & against spatial planning & particular forms of spatial planning;

■ assess and contribute to key planning debates and the planning literature; and

■ assess what can be learnt from past experiences of spatial planning in different socio-economic, cultural & political contexts.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.


Minimum requirement for award of credit for students on MSc City Planning and  MSc City Planning & Real Estate Development is D3 or above.