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Professional course

Introduction to Urban Planning Practice

About this course

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

Page last updated 14 December 2018


The following three courses have been designed to provide a foundation in urban and rural planning in the UK.  Each course will support your development, knowledge and understanding of the planning system in a practical and applied way. 

  • Context and Law An exploration of planning history and a consideration of the planning system as found today from the perspective of the planning application process and associated contexts.
  • Local Planning Plan and policy making and the involvement, engagement and participation of the local community in this.
  • Urban and Sustainable Design Principles An urban design module focusing upon design principles, concepts and responses.

Each course can be taken individually or studied in sequence via distance learning and there is no required attendance. 

Who is it for?

This suite of courses are open to anyone who has a training need in this subject area. It is ideal if you are 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 also suitable for those with no prior knowledge or someone looking for a refresher, some background, or more detail concerning the workings of the planning system.

You will have the additional option of taking the module assessment, to gain university postgraduate credits.

Careers / Further study

If you elect to take 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.



For full course content please click on the individual course titles. The combined course is mapped across the three individual courses as follows:

Context and Law 
An introduction to planning as an activity, and to the evolution of regulatory systems of planning from its historical context to the present day. The course then focuses and concentrates on ensuring that you have a practical and theoretical 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 course 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.  The course 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.

Local Planning
Urban and rural planning at the local scale, whatever it may be called, is a crucial element in any planning systems attempts to stimulate development and economic activity, deliver sustainable communities and protect natural environments. People will always need housing, schools, shops, places of work and leisure. Ensuring the right amount, quality and location of these constituents of towns and cities is what local planning is all about. However, despite the diversity of local planning regimes throughout the EU and beyond, wherever local planning is carried out it faces similar problems and tensions, either within local areas, or between sources of central and local government power. For this reason the Local Planning course concentrates on these intractable and pervasive issues and dilemmas for local planning practice. It provides a critical reflection on these issues and dilemmas along with advice and guidance for the practice of local planning. Students will gain a critical and thorough insight into the main challenges facing local planning.

Urban and Sustainable Design Principles
This courses focuses upon the importance of 'place', analysing place through a consideration of established techniques for recording and analysing existing built environments and the public realm, a historical perspective of the evolution of places, a review of how place-making has been a central objective of the UK's planning system as it evolved during the twentieth century, agreed and established best practice principles in the making of sustainable places and urban design, and an examination of a range of urban design strategies, in the form of publications that aim to address the issue of making places at various spatial scales, from the large village, small towns through to city centres, and from site specific Design Briefs to Masterplans.


This course offers you the opportunity to complete three 15 credit Masters level modules in Urban and Rural Planning (45 credits in total). To achieve this accreditation you will be required to complete the assessments associated with each individual course.  In brief, this consists of:

  • Context and Law:  A 'portfolio' created using MS PowerPoint with an embedded audio file to simulate a presentation (50%), and an essay (50%).
  • Local Planning: An essay (100%)
  • Urban and Sustainable Design Principles: A design 'portfolio' (100%)

What commitment do I have to make?

We would recommend approximately 150 hours to complete each of the three courses (450 hours total). This is only a guideline and will depend highly on your learning abilities. Your study will take place over a single calendar year if you elect to study these three courses in sequence as part of a study group.

The assessment submission date is set approximately for the end of each course duration. Each course runs for approximately 8 weeks and they are studied consecutively. Unfortunately, it is not possible to extend this deadline once you have registered for the course. 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 individual module entries for fees and dates.

How to apply

How to apply

To apply, please go to the relevant module you wish to study and click on the 'how to apply' tab.

For further information

  • Email:
  • Telephone: +44 (0)117 32 86304

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