Progress on a European Platform for Applied Territorial Science, Third ESPON 2013 Scientific Report, December 2014, (2015)  Author of Chapters 5 and 7.


Cliff has operated as a freelance consultant since 2004. He does research, authors reports and is a facilitator and trainer.


European Observation Network for Territorial Cohesion and Development (ESPON) 2013 Programme.

Cliff has worked with Spatial Foresight GmbH ( ) to deliver research-based reports the ESPON Co-ordination Unit on European territorial development and policy. 

Posted May 6, 2014 by  Share

Cape Town 1995Will the UN adopt a post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal addressing urbanisation and human settlements? The draft for the new goals will be agreed early in June, before going to the UN General Assembly for what is expected to be formal endorsement. Thus this month is crucial, and planners, other construction professions, urban researchers and civic bodies need to be making their voices heard quickly.

Posted April 21, 2014 by Share



I was in Botswana recently. Planning there is going through a significant transformation. New legislation that came into force in April 2014 will see significant devolution of planning powers to 16 District-level authorities. Twelve of these are rural. As planning goes local the challenge will be to deliver a more strategic and sophisticated form of planning, and to ensure that young planners beginning their professional careers in remote parts of the country get the support they will need to deliver the new planning system. RTPI accreditation of the planning programme at University of Botswana will support this significant transition.

Posted March 28, 2014 by 

In May in Vienna there will be a unique event. It will bring together sixteen people who have been leading figures in the academic development of planning over the past decades – or fifteen and me to be more accurate! The Evolution of Planning Thought project  seeks to collect an oral history of how ideas about planning have developed, and to do it before the Grim Reaper silences those who played leading roles. It’s international planning history through the eyes of those who created it.

Fifty years ago few people thought of planning as a discipline. Many planners trained on the job; there were some university courses but they were few in number and sought to deliver practical training rather than critical research. In the decade from the late 1950s through to the end of the 1960s planning schools began to change. New staff were appointed who saw themselves as career teachers and researchers; unlike the previous generation they often came from a social science background.

Posted March 17, 2014 by 

2013-09-08 17.50.39Like many planners I am a fan of the movies, and especially fascinated by films where place is central to the narrative. Over the weekend I was lucky enough to see not one, but two films about cities. They have a lot of similarities but also many differences. They areFellini’s Roma and Terence Davies’ reflections on Liverpool, Of Time and the City. What do they tell us about today’s urban situation?

Of Time and The City

Of Time and the City  is described as “a love song and a eulogy to Liverpool.” Davies was born in the city in 1945, and his 1988 film Distant Voices, Still Lives recreated the city and time in which he grew up. Made in 1988, Of Time and The City is less of a drama, more a visual, musical and poetic insight to place, class and time. It uses archive film overlaid with a personal narrative.

Posted March 10, 2014 by 

lagos-21The newly published third report on The State of African Cities  shows how informal development is a key force in the continent’s urbanisation, yet also poses major dilemmas. The report’s sub-title “Re-imagining sustainable urban transitions” suggests both the need to come up with new answers, but also the elusiveness of solutions. Anybody interested in Africa, sustainable development or planning should read it and ponder what can be done.

Posted January 3, 2014 by 

Illegal-addition-of-storeysThe celebration of the centenary of the RTPI this year, and the centenary of the International Federation for Housing and Planning in 2013 are reminders of the origins of modern urban planning, and in particular of the historic links between planning and public health. A century on, the time is ripe to look at the links between health and place globally. The illnesses and premature mortality which the founding fathers of town planning sought to eradicate by better housing, more open space and access to community facilities still stalk the billion people who live in slums today.
The case for preventative health care is a familiar one. It makes sense to keep people healthy. We also pretty much know how to do this. Diet and exercise figure prominently. What is less frequently discussed is the relation between health and place. Perhaps this is not surprising. A publication last year by the World Economic Forum  remarked “Much of the current debate on the future of health is characterized by short-term and siloed thinking and entrenched positions. A short-term view encourages solutions that deliver immediate results and discourages conversations about more fundamental changes that might only bear fruit in the long term. A lack of cross-stakeholder dialogue constrains the finding of solutions outside the traditional approaches to healthcare.”
Health and urbanisation



How has the economic crisis impacted on migration patterns across Europe? This question is addressed in a new four-page ESPON Evidence Brief. The theme was also a central feature of the ESPON seminar in Vilnius on 4-5 December. Migration has been a priority concern of the Lithuanian EU Presidency. This is not surprising, given the scale on which this small country has been haemorrhaging people in recent years. It is estimated that a sixth of the population has been lost over the last 20 years. However, as we in the UK know,  migration has become a hot political topic in many countries. For example there are concerns in countries around the Mediterranean about their “front line” position in relation to illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East.