35th AESOP Annual Congress 2023 Łódź, Poland
“Integrated Planning in the Context of Global Turbulence”


Navigating Planning Theories

Simin Davoudi, School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape; Co-Director of the Centre for Researching Cities, Newcastle University
Meike Levin-Keitel, TU Dortmund University

One of the recurring criticisms faced by planning, and other, scholars is that their work, be it journal papers or doctoral theses, are ‘under-theorized’, ‘lack theory’, or make no ‘theoretical contributions’. Statements like these imply that critics have a single entity in mind called ‘theory’ without necessarily having a clear idea of what that ‘thing’ is which they expect others to attend to. Far from being wilful acts of dismissal, their assessments reflect the ambiguities of the concept of ‘theory’ itself and its contentious nature. Despite centuries of debate among leading figures in physical, natural and social sciences, there is no commonly agreed answer to the ontological question: ‘what is a theory’. This does not mean that we should abandon ‘theory’ from our planning lexicons. Nor does it mean that ‘theory’ can be used to refer to anything and everything. It rather highlights the existence of multiple meanings of ‘theory’ which remain in competition for legitimacy and dominance in planning theories. While acknowledging the essentially contested concepts such as theory, we concur with Donald Levine (1997: 4) that, “critical exploration of the meanings of key terms and their implications offer a […] commendable route towards intellectual sophistication and clear thinking”. With that in mind, this special session aims to bring a diverse set of perspectives together to explore different ways of navigating the complex maze of planning theory and unpack its history, evolution and values. The aim is to contribute to more constructive peer reviews, better use of planning literature, and deeper understanding of planning theories. The papers will primarily focus on addressing the following questions:

  1. What are theories for, how are they defined, and by whom?
  2. How to differentiate between different planning theories?
  3. How to theorise empirical studies?
  4. How to write about and teach planning theories, and what difference does that make to knowing and doing planning in practice?


30 Years of European Planning Studies: What Future?

Dominic Stead, Aalto University, Finland
Louis Albrechts, KU Leuven, Belgium

To mark the 30th year of the publication of European Planning Studies, an international journal published in cooperation with the Association of European Schools of Planning, the journal’s editors have commissioned several short commentaries from planning academics to discuss the future prospects and directions for planning theory and practice in Europe. These commentaries will be published in the journal during the first half of 2023. This roundtable will bring together a number of authors who have written a commentary. The roundtable will also involve several members of the journal’s editorial board who have reviewed these commentaries. The key areas of discussion during this roundtable will be closely related to the main content of the commentaries, namely:

  • What are the key societal challenges which planning/planners will face in the future and how can (and should) planning/planners respond?
  • Are new objectives/practices for planning required?
  • Is systemic change of planning necessary, useful and desirable?
  • How can planning/planners be more ambitious in achieving their goals?
  • Are there opportunities for planning/planners to develop and adopt new creative approaches and/or practices?


Market Forces, Regulation and Ethics of Environmental Consulting Towards Sustainable Development

Alexandros Miltiadou, ALA Planning Partnership Consultancy L.L.C, Cyprus
Achilleas Kalopedis, ALA Planning Partnership Consultancy L.L.C, Cyprus
Ilaria Geddes, University of Cyprus, Cyprus
Environmental Impact Assessments are a key and statutory element influencing Planning Authorities’ decisions, thus determining the extent and nature of permissible environmental impact of urban and architectural projects. They are an established, widely used, appraisal instrument offering Authorities evidence to make informed decisions about a development proposal with a longer-term view of promoting sustainable development by ensuring that potential impacts on natural resources, ecological functions and communities are properly assessed, avoided where possible and/or appropriately mitigated. However, governance and market challenges may influence the outputs of EIAs in ways that may undermine their effectiveness. This round table explores the practical challenges faced by the Environmental Consulting sector in trying to promote sustainable development in an objective and impartial manner while maintaining high standards of work in a highly competitive industry. More specifically it examines how an industry, primarily driven by the “lowest quotation” notion and the Private Developer (Client/Employer) – Consultant (Employee) market structure, with no control on the procedure by the Environmental Authorities, can in many cases define the quality, degree of bias and the outcomes of environmental studies and consequently shape the final decisions of Competent Authorities with regards to planning approvals and permit conditions thereby compromising the desired standards of sustainability. The questions addressed by the round table, aim at finding synergies and solutions between environmental, planning and sustainability Consultants and Clients:

  1. To what extent can a Consultancy’s environmental, sustainability and planning services remain unbiased considering current governance and market structures (i.e. the Client paying the Consultant’s fees) of the environmental assessment process?
  2. How can practices affect the drive towards sustainability of a project by implementing best practice guidelines, whilst meeting at the same time the requirements of Environmental and other Competent Authorities, as well as the demands of the Client?
  3. What role can the Environmental and other Planning and Permitting Authorities play in addressing potential bias and mitigating the influence of market forces to ensure effective environmental assessments supporting the transitions toward sustainable development?
  4. What measures can be put in place in order to ensure that the environmental impacts emanating from the construction and operation of a Project will be mitigated and sustainability maintained, whilst taking into account the current market structures and Client – Consultant relationship?


Law and Planning – Productive Partners or Distant Cousins?

Benjamin Davy, University of Johannesburg / TU Dortmund University, South Africa / Germany
Sebastian Dembski, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Many planning systems rely on regulatory planning or other forms of planning law. Does this proximity between law and planning create a productive partnership in the understanding of law and planning? Or do legal theories and planning theories remain distant cousins who do not really enjoy any close relationship? The normative structure of law follows a number of principles which are not always appreciated by planners. For example, law is supposed to be predictable and accessible: legal rules must be promulgated and worded in a way that all citizens can anticipate the legal consequences of their actions and omissions. Quite the opposite, planners demand for themselves flexibility and spontaneity in dealing with promising investors and developers (and surely not every detail must be made public!). How do legal theories and planning theories cope with the tension between the strictness of the rule of law and the goal-orientation of strategic planning? Another example of creative dissonances between law and planning are property relations in land. Most Western legal systems offer landowners a comprehensive protection of their property rights. Spatial planning, however, often seeks to transform urban and rural patterns beyond the limits of vested rights. Yet, planning cannot be simply called an enemy to property rights. After all, planning renders many services to private landowners that move well beyond the scope of property rights (e.g., provision of grey and green infrastructure). Legal theories often neglect such services and focus on planning as government’s intervention in the sphere of landowner’s rights. Can law and planning transcend the gap? The roundtable will not merely present a series of views, but instigate a lively conversation on pertinent questions:

  • Which legal ideas, concepts, or theories are most relevant to planning?
  • Which planning ideas, concepts, or theories influence legal thinking?
  • In your opinion, do planners understand the law and make good use of the legally binding objectives and instruments of planning?
  • In your opinion, do lawyers understand spatial planning and support the planning community in achieving just and sustainable planning?


Global South (and East) Thematic Group Meeting

Chandrima Mukhopadhyay, Individual AESOP member and Coordinator of the TG, India
Giulio Verdini, University of Westminster, United Kingdom

The AESOP TG Global South & East was officially publicly launched in July 2022 to provide a platform for mutual interaction of likeminded planning scholars, researchers and practitioners from different world regions with an interest in teaching, research and practice in and around Global South & East emerging planning challenges and opportunities. The aim of the roundtable is to reflect on the remit and ambition of this group, building on the on-line exchanges already initiated and in light of a series of on-line lectures planned to take place in early 2023. The roundtable will be our first in person meeting. The participants will reflect on ideas, concepts, theories (including 'Southern Theories'), publication and scholarship, and practices from and on the southeastern context. Based on the contents of the forthcoming on-line lectures, contributors will be prompted to reflect on: Conceptualization of the Global South; Planning education, Publication and Scholarship, Planning practices, and Planning Theory from the South. Moreover, the participants will reflect back on the aims and objectives of the group and its overall policy relevance and potential critical contribution to global agendas of urban sustainability. This will help position the group within the AESOP community and beyond, for instance in relationship to GPEAN, the Global Planning Education Association Network, international associations of professionals, and international agencies.


Socially Responsible Research – Reflecting the Way We Are Doing Research

Moritz Maikämper, ARL – Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz Association, Germany

Nowadays, the major research topics and questions are situated between different fields of research. However, what is considered excellent research is still based on disciplinary criteria. At the same time, as the state of knowledge increases and research becomes differentiated, research processes gain in complexity. The resulting challenges require an integral approach to research as well as the feedback of its activities and results in societal discourse. Several German research institutions have jointly developed a so-called framework for reflection "Socially responsible research". This is embedded in a project called LeNa (that means Leitfaden Nachhaltigkeit/sustainability guideline for research institutions). It aims at taking an integral approach by encouraging critical and systematic reflection of the entire research process. Briefly, the concept focuses on two questions: "How is research being done?" and "Who is doing the research and for whom?" A total of eight criteria help researchers answer these questions: Ethics, Integrative approach, Interdisciplinarity, User orientation, Impact assessment, Transdisciplinarity, Transparency and Dealing with complexity and uncertainty. Planning practice and research already have a long tradition of integrated approaches and to deal with complexity and uncertainties. Other disciplines may be able to learn from that. However, global turbulence requires a co-operation of different actors including society which is also challenging for planners and planning researchers. Based on a brief presentation of the framework for reflection on socially responsible research and the above mentioned criteria, we plan an open discussion (fishbowl or circle, depending on the number of participants) to debate the following questions:

  • How do planning researchers in different countries reflect on their research processes? Is this step obligatory, and/or do researchers receive any support for doing so, e.g. additional funding for interand transdisciplinary research projects, as these tend to be more time consuming?
  • How do planning researchers in different countries reflect on intended and unintended, positive and negative societal impacts of their work?
  • How can integrated research approaches help researchers deal with complexity and uncertainty?
  • Which of the eight criteria introduced above do researchers from different backgrounds consider the most relevant for urban/spatial planning research?


The Potential of Spatial Planning for Transformative Change to Preserve and Restore Biodiversity in Urban and Rural Areas

Jorge Silva, CiTUA / Instituto Superior Técnico / Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
Nuno David, CiTUA / Instituto Superior Técnico / Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

Transformative change has been widely recognised as the paradigm shift needed to tackle the multiple crises we currently face as humanity as the loss of biodiversity. Spatial planning-related decisions in urban and rural areas are characterised by multilevel processes that emerge from the interaction between multiple scales, actors, processes, and institutions, from local to global. This makes spatial planning a critical arena for action where strategies to leverage transformative potential can be explored and agents of change enabled. In this session, we want to invite the AESOP community to engage in an interactive discussion on how to deliver transformative change in planning practice. As an example to stimulate the discussion, the BioValue project will be introduced ( This Horizon Europe project seeks to leverage transformative change by addressing the elements of vision, knowledge, dynamics, agency and governance by articulating it across planning systems. In this roundtable setting we aim to explore and pinpoint innovative approaches, methods and instruments to mainstream biodiversity considerations in spatial planning, impact assessments and economic and financial instruments for transformative change.


Futuring the European Metropolitan Region – Between Strategic Positioning and Everyday Life Worlds

Peter Ache, Radboud University, Netherlands
Camilla Perrone, University of Florence, Italy

The challenges regarding European Metropolitan Regions are growing in these times of a polycrisis: climate change and adaptation, increasing infectious disease outbreaks, the energy transition and a turn towards a post-carbon-economy, or variegated socio-economic and spatial fragilities, are all building up stress levels in those regions. With these conditions, what happens in the ‘power houses’ of modern urban societies, and how can we navigate these areas between strategic positioning and providing everyday life worlds? How are urban policies coping with these challenges, and what impact does the Next Generation EU policy play in addressing transformations and transition? The RT will address related issues in a critical inquiry but also by outlining some pathways to the future of the European Metropolitan Space.


Planning Across Borders in Times of War and Geopolitical Conflict

Alois Humer, University of Vienna, Austria
Jörg Knieling, HafenCity University Hamburg, Germany
Eva Purkarthofer, Aalto University, Finland

Planning across borders is a reality in practice from intermunicipal to transnational level in Europe. Joint challenges and objectives on every side of the border form the substantial basis why we do cross-border cooperation in terms of regional planning and strategy making. Thereby, a taken-for-granted precondition is the willingness for cooperation on every side of the border. For decades, we have collected knowledge and international experience of cross-border planning practices under these constructive preconditions. However, we have debated much less about cross-border planning when mutual willingness and trust are lacking – until the extreme situation when war and geopolitical conflict make cross-border cooperation impossible. This panel will re-discuss transnational planning and strategy making in the light of such destructive preconditions. The Russian offensive war in Ukraine has severe consequences for the long-term established cooperation in the Baltic Sea area. To some extend, geopolitical conflict in border regions of South East Europe pose severe challenges for cross-border planning. Generally, cooperation across the EU outer border is a particular challenge. Yet, planning across borders does hold potential to proactively improve the situation along borders of conflict through enabling dialogue, exchange, trust-building, and mutual understanding – even if under geopolitically difficult conditions. This panel will discuss about both sides of the coin: the throwbacks for cross-border planning and strategy making in times of war and geopolitical conflict as well as the potential of cross-border planning and strategy making to contribute to a change to the better in terms of transnational integration.


Accessibility Research for Promoting Active Transport in Urban Streets and Neighbourhoods

Noriko Otsuka, ILS Research gGmbH, Germany
Benjamin Büttner, Technical University of Munich, Germany

This roundtable aims to discuss pros and cons of current research methodologies for assessing the local accessibility of active modes (i.e., walkability and bikeability) and to identify further knowledge gaps in the accessibility research for promoting active transport in urban streets and neighbourhoods. Key questions to be addressed during the roundtable are:

  • What role do local/proximity-centred accessibility assessments play in creating more and better urban spaces for active transport?
  • What are the key determinants in encouraging people to choose to walk and cycle? How far is local?
  • How to integrate users’ needs and perceptions in quantitative accessibility measurements tools?
  • What impacts on active mobility and accessibility can be induced by changes in the physical design and regulation of streets, and how to assess these impacts?
  • How to support transferability and usefulness of tools and methods?
  • At which step of the decision-making process should the proposed tools be implemented and which policy measures should they address?
  • How to encourage city planners, and other actors, to use these tools in order to facilitate and support transition towards improved active travel in urban streets and neighbourhoods?

This roundtable is drawn upon research activities of two European projects: WalkUrban and EX-TRA. They are JPI Urban Europe projects selected for the ERA-NET Cofund Urban Accessibility and Connectivity (ENUAC) call, which aims to create and test new solutions and approaches for achieving sustainable urban mobility. WalkUrban ( and EX-TRA (, were successful in this call. Both projects aim to free up the potential for sustainable and active travel by investigating local accessibility of urban streets and neighbourhoods. Through exploring the links between objective, subjective and perceived walking accessibility, WalkUrban attempts to identify key drivers for and obstacles to walking for different target groups in various urban neighbourhoods in three European cities: Genoa, Dortmund and Gothenburg. Learning from transition experiments in the streets of six cities: Amsterdam, Bologna, Milan, Ghent, Munich and London, EX-TRA looks into physical design and regulations to increase the inclusivity of users in urban streets as well as transport and land use conditions to improve walking and cycling accessibility in city districts. We share the common goal of providing concrete evidence to support sustainable and active transport in urban neighbourhoods and to help planners develop new strategies that can accelerate the transition towards a ‘post-car’ city. To analyse conditions for the accessibility of active modes in urban streets, EX-TRA introduces and tests different accessibility tools - the Inclusive Accessibility by Proximity Index (IAPI) and the Geo Open Accessibility Tool (GOAT) - to measure and assess accessibility to opportunities for different users, based on individual needs and abilities, perceptions, land use and transport conditions. Walk Urban uses a mixed method approach. Walkability is analysed at the local street level by a newly developed walking route assessment tool and by walk-along interviews with vulnerable groups such as older people, school children and people with disabilities. Both research approaches aim to fill an important gap in accessibility research for active transport using innovative methods. They aim to support a context sensitive and user-centred implementation, which is needed to facilitate the transition from car-based mobility to zero-emission mobility based on active transport modes.


What (and How) Revitalisation of Cities and Neighbourhoods Can Contribute to Urban Sustainability Transformation

Robert Knippschild, Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development & Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
Stefanie Rosler, Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development, Germany

Spatial development seems to come out of balance. Many metropoles face massive growth. This leads to a housing shortage in the affected cities, rising property and rent prices, and other also ecological congestion. The housing policy response to this challenge focuses largely on new construction. This development is critical from several points of view, in particular ecologically. New construction activities comes along with further land use, consumption of scarce resources, further sealing and the associated loss of open space, eco systems and biodiversity. At the same time, many smaller cities and towns are losing inhabitants or continue to suffer from the consequences of population losses in the past. These shrinking or shrunken cities and towns are facing vacancies, abandoned houses and underutilised infrastructure facilities. This can result in the loss of cultural heritage and urbanity, high infrastructure costs and - again - low resource efficiency. Such ambivalences in development and construction dynamics are also accompanied by societal consequences such as spatial polarisation, increasing injustices and perceived marginalisation. We want to discuss different aspects where revitalisation might contribute to urban sustainability transformation.


The Role of Knowledge Transfer Between Universities and Urban Practice for Resilient Transformation, Case Study Ukraine

Silke Weidner, Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus Senftenberg (BTU), Germany
Frank Schartze, Technische Hochschule Lübeck, Germany
Detlef Kurth, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Germany

A new challenge is planning under conditions of an external threat to security in Europe, and the associated supply gaps, migration movements, attacks on critical infrastructure. The question is, how planning tools have to be changed to increase the resilience of our cities under conflict conditions. At the same time the question arises, how a sustainable reconstruction of destroyed cities based on ecological, economic and social criteria could be implemented - which has a short-term effect but has a long-term planning perspective. Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is a start point to take a closer look. It can be expected that conflicts in urban areas will increase in the future. A forward-looking urban development policy must also focus more on the protection of the civilian population and the civilian infrastructure in potentially conflict-areas - another dimension of the "resilient city". In this Roundtable we like to discuss, how a knowledge transfer about resilient transformation and integrated urban development following the EU Leipzig Charter 2020 could be implemented in Europe. How different planning schools could work closer together to develop new study modules, and to increase the transfer into the practice? Case studies are the “Hochschultag” in Germany, the DAAD project Ukraine digital, and other activities to support Ukraine in times of war.


Pushing critical planning scholarship beyond criticising

Camilla Perrone, University of Florence, Italy
Laura Saija, University of Catania, Italy

Very few fields of knowledge can compare with Planning in terms of various research paradigms, to such an extent that our scholarly encounters – including AESOP annual conferences – are often the showcase for historical disagreements and harsh epistemological arguments. In the making of such a diversity, a key role has been played by “critical” scholars, where the term “critical” refers to their goal of questioning mainstream planning paradigms, methods, and, most importantly, actual implications for planning practice.

While this ‘critical’ strand of literature has made the scientific planning community more self-reflective, it might be time to address some major questions: what is critical in planning theory? To what extent has critical literature made planning more socially relevant? Aren’t critical scholars too busy unfolding “uncomfortable truths” about planning to worry about developing something practically useful and applicable? Which directions in planning theory (if any) can critical thinking nourish and inspire?

The roundtable aims at addressing these questions. Some experienced scholars, who have authored important critical views of mainstream planning, will share their views on the matter, and two “younger” scholars will react to that. Moreover, a focus on the contribution of a critical approach to practice will be introduced as a bridging exercise between theories and practice. The hope is to provide the audience with insights on whether and how it is possible to combine the "critical” and "helpful” dimensions of planning knowledge.


Re-constructing the hidden histories of community-led participation across the world

Francesca Sartorio, Cardiff University, UK

Prof Sue Brownill, Prof Glen O’Hara and Dr Debbie Humphry; (Oxford Brookes University);
Prof Geraint Ellis (Queens University Belfast);
Dr Andy Inch, Dr Glyn Robbins and Dr Jason Slate (University of Sheffield);
Prof Lorraine Leeson (Middlesex University);
Dr Francesca Sartorio (Cardiff University)

Planning is often narrowly defined by the statutory framing of land use practices. Such an approach limits visibility and does not pay due credit to the contributions provided by many informal initiatives focusing on developing innovative ideas for the future of places that stem from below. The proposers are all currently involved in the AHRC-funded project ‘People’s plans: the hidden histories of community-led planning in the UK’ (see, aimed at retracing an alternative history of planning (Sandercock, 1998).

As working on this topic began, we realised that there are many definitions of community-led planning and that the history of people’s plans might be different in different countries. What are the milestones of community-led planning in various parts of the world and have there been phases or periods characterised by their emergence? Under what conditions have people’s plans developed and what sort of outcomes did they have? Are there issues or topics consistently appearing in the background of such experiences? What sort of actors contributed and what sort of ideas were mobilised?

The roundtable aims at eliciting short presentations from up to ten contributors on community-led planning across different countries of the world to celebrate place-based activism and stimulate debate across a variety of attendees as to what can these experiences teach us today.

The promoters are currently in discussion with potential contributors and, were this proposal to be accepted, will be able to confirm names as soon as selection results are announced.

Keywords: People’s plan, community-led planning, comparative approaches