Spatial Planning

Urban Sustainability

Within the department’s research and education programs, Spatial Planning's research and education contribute knowledge on the governance and planning of urban futures and their shaping through institutional arrangements and innovative planning approaches. The group is international in their perspective with on-going research in the Netherlands and other Western and Eastern European countries, North and South America, sub-Saharan Africa and China.


The section brings together knowledge from different fields in planning and governance research to understand, explain and guide sustainable urban and regional change. At the same time, it develops and tests theories about how institutional, technological, environmental and social conditions shape urban and regional sustainability.

The section’s research program is problem-driven and aims to advance the understanding of how and why different  often co-existing – modes of governance and institutional arrangements either do or do not result in sustainable outcomes. We define governance as a process of interaction between public and/or private entities ultimately aiming at the realization of collective goals. How can urban and regional governance arrangements accommodate, proliferate or frustrate sustainability transitions? How can institutional arrangements and planning instruments be improved to deal with rivalrous land uses and complex property right situations in sustainable ways? What are the requirements to increase the governance capacity of cities and regions, i.e. through institutional reforms, participatory planning, or informal and community-led planning approaches? What are the roles and added values that planning support systems (PSS), big (open) data and smart tools (e.g. social media) have in the governance of urban sustainability?

In short, the section’s research and teaching address the increasingly complex governance challenges in planning, developing and operating cities and urban regions in line with sustainability goals.

Apart from university-funded research, the section’s current research projects are funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe, the German Research Foundation, the European Research Council, the EU Horizon 2020, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and the Chinese Council of Science. At the same time, the university-wide research hub Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities is chaired by one of the section’s professors. Next to this, the section members participate in other research hubs of the strategic themes Pathways to Sustainability and Institutions for Open Societies.


The section contributes spatial planning perspectives to the department’s undergraduate program in Human Geography and Spatial Planning and is responsible for the Spatial Planning Master's programme. Its planning education is international in scope and strongly engages with planning practice through guest lectures, the organization of planning studios in collaboration with planning professionals, internships, and thesis research. At the same time, the section is involved in the interdisciplinary Master’s programme Geographical Information Management and Applications (GIMA), a joint program of four Dutch universities.


For individual members of this research section, please see the staff listing.