The range of approaches known variously as "town planning", "urban and regional planning" or "town and country planning" were significantly changed in 2004 to introduce "spatial planning". While well-meaning, intending to draw together a range of service delivery mechanisms and therefore extending the cocnept of planning far beyond the public conception of planning permission, commentators such as Janice Morphet have shown that a major communications gap energed between central government's conception of the new spatial planning agenda and those responsible for its day-to-day delivery.
Since 2009 several CESR staff have been working on a range of critiques of the concept and implementation of spatial planning, which is very timely as the new coalition government further changes the system.
Recent work is focusing on the interaction between spatial planning and ecosystems services, and this is attracting considerable interest and offers to participate in research bids and projects. For example, Professor Alister Scott has been appointed to the UNEP WMC National Ecosystem Assessment expert panel (Research Councils UK, English and Welsh Government, LWEC) for a two-year follow-on project; has been appointed Principal Investigator of two work packages related to the use of planning and environmental tools in the National Ecosystem Assessment follow-on project and was invited to a political roundtable in Westminster with Hilary Benn MP and Roberta Blackman Woods MP to discuss planning policy for the Labour Party. This forms one of three think tank summits held as part of their policy review.
Other work is exploring the use of space, mechanisms for land-use change and its impact on communities. This has particularly focused on urban agriculture and guerrilla gardening. Dr Joe Nasr (Visiting Research Fellow) has led international work in urban agriculture, recently co-authoring the book Carrot City and the touring international exhibition of the same name, which was hosted across several venues in Birmingham in 2012 (see Carrot City Birmingham). Mike Hardman's PhD research has not only already generated numerous conference papers but his work with local community growing organisations has resulted in his successful finding bid on behalf of a local group, Stanhope Hall.