PLAN30030 Rural & Landscape Planning

Academic Year 2021/2022

In practice, spatial planning is largely an urban field with the issues facing urban areas receiving a great deal of attention and resources. In contrast, the fate of smaller settlements and rural areas has been a less significant concern for planning practice and academic investigation. Historically this may have had some justification in terms of the protection of agricultural land or the lack of development pressures on the countryside, but this is patently not the case at present. Rural areas are changing fast: the economic base of rural areas is diversifying; farming is under pressure; there is a growing concern for the environment; and some rural communities are under intense pressure from urbanisation, while other areas continue to decline. The aim of this module is to give students a clear understanding of contemporary issues in rural and landscape planning, and accordingly seeks to take a holistic view of the activities, policies and planning initiatives that are currently shaping rural areas.

Rural and Landscape Planning has been a contested arena in recent years, with deep divisions conerning development in the countryside. This debate has often been polarised between a ‘development versus conservation’ perspective; however, in this module, we will explore the potential of effective planning to reconcile the need to accommodate change while protecting or conserving environmental resources. Moreover, the module will explore changing conceptualistions of landscape change in light of contemporary environmental challenges and the European Landscape Convention.

The module comprises 4 Core Knowledge Learning Units: (1) Rural Settlement; (2) Landscape Design & Planning; (3) Sustainable Land Use Management & Green Infrastructure; and (4) Heritage. This knowledge will be applied and assessed in a practical case study within the final Learning Unit, (5) Application – see details below.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On the successful completion of the course, you should be able to:

1. Critically appraise concepts and theories surrounding rural and landscape change;

2. Demonstrate an ability to apply landscape concepts to planning practice;

3. Describe and explain planning approaches to managing rural settlement change;

4. Critically reflect on the role of planning in rural settlement management and landscape conservation.

Indicative Module Content:

The module is structured into 5 Learning Units, with each unit delivered through a blended learning approach.

Learning Unit 1 – Rural Settlement
This unit will examine socio-spatial dimensions of rural change and relate these to demographic tends and rural housing demands. This will include examining key concepts in explaining rural social and housing change and rural residential mobilities and preferences. This unit will then examine how planners and designers respond to these changes through policy, practice and design. Therefore, we will evaluate alternative approaches to planning rural settlements, development management and design practice.

Learning Unit 2 – Landscape Design & Planning
This unit will examine the drivers of landscape change in Europe and Ireland, both historically and in the contemporary countryside. Specifically, we will examine how agricultural practices have framed both continuity and change and we will examine new demands on rural landscapes, such as low carbon energy infrastructure. The unit will then examine how ‘landscape’ is conceived in policy and practice, drawing on the European Landscape Convention to examine landscape protection, conservation, management and design principles. A key focus of this unit will be understanding the purpose and process for preparing Landscape Character Assessments

Learning Unit 3 – Sustainable Land Use Management & Green Infrastructure
Building on Learning Unit 2, this unit further explores issues around land use and landscape management. Specifically, we will focus on traditional planning approaches towards countryside management and how these have been reconceptualised in the 21st Century. In this context, we will explore the ecosystem approach to landscape management and the advancement of green infrastructure as a key planning and design tool at the landscape scale.

Learning Unit 4 - Heritage
This unit will explore the importance of ‘heritage’ (natural, landscape and built environment) in planning for rural places. We will examine shifting ideas of heritage management and how heritage is commodified within rural economic development policy. Therefore, this unit will explore best practice for heritage management and will examine how we can ‘make use’ of heritage in local regeneration.

Learning Unit 5 – Application
In this final unit, we will apply the previous learning units into a practical application, linked to the overall module assessment. This will involve an individual assignment, where you will be tasked with preparing ONE of the following to a selected case study location:
1. Develop a rural settlement strategy or design guidance for rural village and its hinterland;
2. Prepare a Landscape Character Assessment for a sensitive landscape;
3. Develop a Green Infrastructure strategy for a river corridor;
4. Prepare heritage management guidelines or a heritage-led local regeneration strategy for a rural village.
You will be guided through this unit through interactive support from the module lecturers in seminars (or webinars).

Please note, that a fieldtrip to the study location is planned. However, if this is not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, then we will undertake a virtual study tour.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Field Trip/External Visits


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module is delivered through a mix of lectures, a 1 day field trip and studio based learning.

Weeks 1-7 will be delivered through traditional lectures (with opportunities for class discussion) to examine rural change and the planning and landscape design response.

During the half term break (usually the first week of this break), a MANDATORY field trip will be undertaken to examine landscape change and the application of landscape character assessment.

Following the half term break, we move to a studio format for group-based learning in relation to undertaking a landscape character assessment and its application within development management.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
PEP10030 - History of Planning, PEP20080 - GIS Planning Project, PLAN10020 - History of City Planning, PLAN20020 - Introduction to GIS

PEP30120 - Topics in Urban & Reg Planning

Additional Information:
Pre-requisites: one of the modules listed.

Rural & Landscape Planning (PEP30050), Rural & Landscape Planning (PEP40190), Rural & Landscape Planning (PLAN40040)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: 2500 word individual report Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

The Assignment is an individual report. Written and oral feedback will be provided no later than 20 working days following submission. Feedback will be provided, both individually and within groups, on earlier drafts of this assignment (e.g. discussion of ideas, report structure, draft sections etc) - this will be through interactive sessions in a student-led format.

Core reading

Scott, M., Gallent, N. & Gkartzios, M. (2019) Routledge Companion to Rural Planning, Routledge, New York

Reading specific to each topic covered will be included with lecture slides
Name Role
Dr Karen Foley Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 Mon 09:00 - 10:49