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Professional course

Urban Planning: Context and Law

About this course

Course code:
Professional/Short Course
Geography and Environmental Management
Approximately 16 weeks
Distance learning
Course director:
Adam Sheppard

Page last updated 14 December 2018


This module explores the emergence and evolution of urban planning before moving into a consideration of the planning system in place today for the management of the built and natural environment. It includes a focus on the practical manner in which planning work from the perspective of the application process and associated requirements and contexts.

This course is studied via distance learning and has no required attendance. 

Who is it for?

This course is ideal for anyone working in urban or rural planning, interested in planning, involved in planning (for example Neighbourhood Planning), interacting with the planning system as a professional, or for personal reasons. It is suitable if you have no prior knowledge or if you're looking for a refresher, some background, or more detail concerning the workings of the planning system. 


Entry requirements

This course is suitable to be taken as a standalone short course and is therefore open to anyone who has a training need in this subject area.

Careers / Further study

By successfully completing the assessment as part of your course studies, you may be able to use this credit towards one of the Awards within the JDLC Urban and Rural Planning programme family, subject to meeting the entry requirements for these programmes.



The course provides an introduction to planning as an activity, and to the evolution of regulatory systems of planning in its historical context.

It begins with an exploration of the emergence of regulatory systems of control from the earliest forms of regulation, through the industrial revolution, and up-to-date with the emergence of the modern planning system in Britain after the Second World War. 

The second part of this course then focuses and concentrates on ensuring that you have a practical understanding of the approaches to managing development through the mechanisms and systems of planning part of the module will then allow you to explore the mechanics of the planning system today from the perspective of the planning decision making system; this will include some basic law, a consideration of the workings of the system, and an explanation of the planning application process and the associated requirements and parallel consents. 

The module will also provide you with a working and practical understanding of analytical skills needed to make decisions based not on the output (i.e. a decision), but rather to be outcome focused.  It is is therefore underpinned by the principles of the Development Management approach with an emphasis on the quality of the outcome and the effectiveness of the process.  It will focus upon the core principles and concepts involved so that, whilst grounded in the UK context to a certain extent, the course has validity in an international context.

By completing this programme you will develop your understanding of the basis of the planning system and the manner in which it operates.  It will also give you some of the skills you need to work with the planning system from the perspective of the development process and planning applications.

Themes and subjects covered include the following:

  • An introduction to planning as an activity, and to planning systems.
  • The global emergence of state intervention and 'planning'.
  • The evolution of the British approach to planning and alternative models.
  • Decision making processes and implementation mechanisms regarding the development and use of land to meet sustainability objectives within the context of the spatial planning approach.
  • Decision-making in context: discretion in the British planning system and alternative approaches, and the role of delivery mechanisms, politics and the various decision making processes.
  • The legislative context: the need for 'planning permission'; the definition of development; models and mechanisms for enabling proportionate intervention, including: permitted development rights; prior approval, and the management of uses. legal scope; planning enforcement; supporting materials.
  • The development process, planning permissions, and decision making in urban and rural contexts.
  • Consultation, participation and engagement within the context of development management.
  • Professional skills, including a focus upon negotiation, project management, understanding and creating plans and drawings, and viability.
  • Making a decision; zoning, discretionary decision making, the development plan and material considerations; the use of conditions/post-decisions management; reasons for refusal.
  • Planning agreements/gain and systems of cost recovery.
  • Moral and ethical dilemmas.
  • Appeals and legal challenges: merit based appeals and the use of the courts; the planning review body; understanding how to produce evidence and justify argument.
  • Policy, guidance and advice: understanding the role of development plan and other material considerations, including guidance case law in discretionary system of planning.  Understanding the nature of codified plans.
  • The development management approach to managing development and delivering effectively and efficiently with an outcome focus.
  • Understanding design in the urban and rural planning contexts.
  • The value of good design and how it can delivered.

Study time

We would recommend approximately 150 hours to complete this course. This is only a guideline and will depend highly on your learning abilities.


As part of the course, you will be asked to complete a 15 credit Masters level module in Urban and Rural Planning. To achieve this accreditation you will be required to complete the following:

The module will be assessed by two pieces of assessment, each worth 50% of your overall mark:

  • Portfolio/audio file: This will require the students to submit a portfolio with an associated descriptive audio file which will be based around a series of individual projects developed during the course of the module.  This portfolio will demonstrate the students' ability to undertake a site analysis and appraisal, including planning policy and guidance, and present an assessment of a design proposal.
  • Essay: This will require students to demonstrate their knowledge of material covered through the academic year. The essay question will demand that students address an important academic matter raised by the module.

The answer will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Relevance of answer to the question set
  • Demonstration of understanding and insight in response to the question set
  • Structure and organisation of response
  • Grounding in literature and appropriate legislation, and use of evidence and supporting material
  • Clarity, coherence and depth of argument and analysis
  • Standards of literacy and presentation.

On successful completion of this assessment you will receive an overall module mark. This module may then be used towards a selection of our Master's level programmes.

What commitment do I have to make?

We would recommend approximately 150 hours to complete this course. This is only a guideline and will depend highly on your learning abilities.

The assessment submission date is set approximately for the end of the course duration, which is eight weeks. Unfortunately, it is not possible to extend this deadline once you have registered for the module. However, if for an unexpected reason you are unable to submit, the University does have an extenuating circumstances policy.

If you are taking the assessment we encourage you to manage your own reading and are happy to supply a list of recommend texts on request.  You will be provided with all of your required reading and content through an online virtual learning environment, and will be able to interact with your tutors via a discussion portal as well as through more traditional means such as email, Skype and telephone.

Prices and dates

Supplementary fee information

Please see the table below for current fee. All prices are VAT exempt.

Commencement dateFees
04 February 2019£788 (academic year 2018/19)

(includes module assessment)

How to apply

How to apply

Book NowEnquire now


Extra information

For more information regarding the course content, please contact Adam Sheppard; Senior Lecturer and JDLC Director, or submit the enquiry form above to be kept up-to-date with new course dates and related courses.


For further information

  • Email: Please contact us using the online enquiry form above.
  • Telephone: +44 (0)117 32 86304

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