Planning guides the future development and use of land. It is about where development should happen, where it should not and how it affects the quality of our surroundings. Planning strives to design and deliver equitable, inclusive and sustainable communities where people can live, work and enjoy their leisure time. This involves promoting and facilitating development while protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment.
This programme is designed to equip you with the knowledge and practical skills needed to work as a professional planner. You will develop the ability to ask the right questions and find creative solutions to the challenges facing communities and the built environment.
Part-time and Distance Learning study options
This programme can be studied on a part-time basis or via Independent Distance Learning (IDL), ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family.
The Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design within the School of the Built Environment has excellent industry links. Staff within the Institute are actively engaged in a variety of research projects relating to building design, specification, management and operation.
Teaching and research excellence
The School of the Built Environment has a strong record in built environment research. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) 60% is classed internationally excellent or better.
With a history dating back to 1821, Heriot-Watt is one of the UKs leading universities, and Scotlands most international. Find out more about Heriot-Watt Universitys reputation, rankings and international profile.
This programme, led by Dr Sarah McIntosh, consists of eight mandatory courses. MSc students also complete a Masters dissertation.
Sustainable Design and Development
Transport and Environment
Strategic Spatial Vision Project
Governance Participation and Community Planning
The programme has been structured around three mandatory project-based courses:
Sustainable Design and Development: To develop a critical understanding of the complexity of urban design principles and practice, including sustainability issues and of the development process, incorporating evaluating the financial implications of development and the factors influencing the development decision.
The Strategic Spatial Vision Project: develop advanced understanding of, and skills in, the preparation and evaluation of spatial visions and strategies and competence in the professional skills of analysis, evaluation and prescription of policy in an urban context.
Governance, Participation and Community Planning: To develop experience and understanding of community participation and engagement, and develop the soft skills of partnership working, through a practical exercise in a local community.
These projects are supported by five mandatory taught courses:
Semester 1 (mandatory)
Introduces concepts of spatial planning at different spatial scales and reflection on the implementation and impact of planning policies. Topics in the syllabus include:
Reasons for planning; Development Planning; Urbanisation and Urban development; Development and property rights; Development Management; Environmental Assessment; Conservation; Globalisation and urban transitions.
Semester 1 (mandatory)
Critical exploration of the key intellectual debates about planning theory and practice. Topics in the syllabus include:
What is planning theory and what do planners do? The case for and against spatial planning; Urban form; neo-Marxism; neo-Liberalism; feminist perspectives; urban utopianism; policy implementation; the public interest; participation and (ex)inclusion; modernism; post-modernism; analysis of the natural environment and its values to society and sustainable development.
Transport and environment
Semester 1 (mandatory)
This course provides students with a critical awareness of the nature and importance of transport and land use inter-relationships and the roles of urban managers in relation to these. The following topics will be covered in this course:
Transports contribution to climate change and to future visions of sustainability; Making the links between transport and health, social inclusion, quality of life, and economic development; Measuring the socio-economic and environmental impact of transport; Land use- transport interactions; Urban growth and infrastructure; Transport plans and strategies; Decision-making and implementation bodies; legislative frameworks, roles and responsibility; Global and EU policy policies on transport infrastructure and sustainable transport; Design and delivery of public transit and active travel modes (walking and cycling); Behavioural change policies and implementation.
Semester 2 (mandatory)
To introduce a range of ways of thinking about sustainability and equity spatially and across economies. This course includes the following topics:
Social sustainability and relationship with overall sustainable development principles; Theories of social justice, equity and social capital; Access to services; Health and health inequalities; Shelter (housing and homelessness); Ethnicity and gender; Community and place; Travel and transport; Land use mix; Synthesis of social sustainability.
Semester 2 (mandatory)
This course provides students with an understanding of environmental management within planning systems both in the UK and internationally, within a context of climate change and improving the environmental and social sustainability of cities. Topics in the syllabus include:
Theories of sustainable development, including dark green approaches and the Brundtland paradigm; The relationship between urban development and green space: the design and management of urban green space for people and nature, ownership and use rights to open space; Urban water management: introduces the concept of hydrological unit management and river basin management plans; Pollution and risk management in the urban context: pollution as a marginal social cost; understanding of pollution pathways and the different concepts of risk associated with pollutants.
Additional programme information
Students are expected to develop through their coursework and dissertation in depth knowledge in one of the following specialisms:
Environmental policy and management
Land and property markets
The programme also places importance on the preparation of a personal development plan (PDP) which links the learning experience to wider skills and employability of each student. The PDP is therefore seen as an integral part of the programme.
The educational aims of the programme are:
Comprehensive to develop in students from a variety of first disciplines comprehensive and integrated understanding of the context, nature and theory of spatial planning which pursues sustainable development, and of its application in practice, as well as knowledge in depth of a named planning specialism.
Professional to educate students at postgraduate level to the point at which they are ready to undertake preparation for the Assessment of Professional Competence in planning as required by the RTPI.
Promote wider skills to develop in students a high level of the personal qualities required to pursue a career in planning, including creativity, professionalism, the habit of lifelong learning and critical reflection, and a positive response to change the workplace, the built environment and its governance.
Inclusive to instil a respect for diversity, an appreciation of social inclusion as a goal of planning, and an awareness of the role that values and attitudes play in managing change in the built environment.
Problem Solving to develop an advanced ability to define research and devise solutions to planning problems.
Interdisciplinary to take advantage of the programmes location in an urban studies discipline which includes teaching and research strengths in estate management and development, regeneration and housing, and which lies within a wider school of the built environment in Scotland, whilst also taking advantage of the wide-ranging international experience of academic staff.
Sarah McIntosh is a Chartered Town Planner with extensive experience of planning projects. She is widely experienced in market appraisals, area development initiatives, housing projects, environmental assessments and in the design, implementation and analysis of interview and surveys. She lectures on urban regeneration, evaluation and appraisal techniques, the planning and development process and urban policy.
Whilst working for Planning and Economic Consultants she worked on a number of Area Development and Policy Evaluation Studies, including the evaluation of housing projects and policies and in particular, the collection and the analysis of public authority data and policies. She has previously worked in the public sector and has considerable experience of the work and procedures of Local Authorities and other public agencies.
The MSc gives full exemption from all the educational requirements of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). On completion most of our students find employment in planning with a variety of employers, for example in local and central government, environmental and development agencies, private sector consultants and developers.