PLAN30030 Rural & Landscape Planning

Academic Year 2019/2020

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 has three primary themes. The first relates to rural restructuring processes and questions the contemporary role and functions of rural places and environments. The second theme relates to issues surrounding landscape change and management, including the landscape scale for planning and the promotion of multifunctional rural landscapes. The third theme addresses the contested issue of rural settlement planning, including the drivers of rural housing supply and demand and policy instruments for managing rural settlement change. The module has four components and comprises lecture-based classes, a fieldtrip and studio-based group work:Part 1 of the module will explore key concepts of rural and landscape change, focusing on processes of rural restructuring, demographic and settlement change and its relationship to landscape change. We will also examine competing uses for rural space, from recreational demands to the production of new post carbon ‘energy-scapes’.Part 2 of the module will examine the policy and design response to rural and landscape change processes. This will include planning practice and policy to manage rural housing and settlement change and an exploration of principles and concepts relating to landscape design and management. We will also outline and critically examine Landscape Character Assessments as a tool for rural planning decision-making. Part 3 comprises a MANDATORY fieldtrip. Following the practical introduction of Landscape Character Assessment, we will then undertake a 1 day fieldtrip to examine a range of landscape types. This will form the basis of subsequent studio-based workshops and an assignment.Part 4 of the module will apply the concepts and principles of rural and landscape planning in a series of studio-based exercises. This will include group work relating to the landscape character assessment and problem-solving around green infrastructure assets and wind farm development.

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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:

Indicative content includes the following topics:


What is rural restructuring?
Drivers of rural change; from productivist models to the consumption countryside; new demands on rural space; multifunctional rural geographies; implications for policy

The changing landscape
Landscapes in Europe and Ireland; drivers of change – what is changing? How fast is the change? How much is changing? Since when and how long is the change going on for? Agriculture and the rural landscape; A post-agricultural countryside? Multifunctional ruralities; New energy landscapes

Housing, demography and rural change
Rural housing and demographic trends; key concepts – depopulation, counterurbanisation, rural gentrification; evidence of change in the Irish countryside – residential mobilities and preferences

Green Infrastructure and Landscape Planning
Traditional approaches to landscape conservation; Reconceptualising the rural landscape; Landscape resources and ecosystem services; what is green infrastructure (GI) and the GI approach? Towards ‘smart conservation’


Managing rural housing
Rural settlement and development plans – key approaches from planning practice; alternative policy approaches – market based instruments and participatory tools; development control and housing design

Principles of Landscape Design, Planning and Management
The European Landscape Convention; landscape protection and conservation; creating new landscapes; landscape intervention at the design, planning and management scale

Landscape Assessment as a tool for rural planning
What are landscape character assessments? How are they used in the planning process? Planning Guidelines for Landscape Assessment; Methodologies


Landscape Character Assessment STUDIO

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Field Trip/External Visits


Autonomous Student 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 - GIS Planning Project

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: 2000 word individual report Week 8 n/a Graded No


Group Project: Group landscape character assessment 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?

Assignment 1 is an individual report. Written and oral feedback will be provided no later than 20 working days following submission Assignment 2 is a group project. Group work will be undertaken within a studio format within class. Two lecturers will provide feedback as groups develop ideas and outline content. Written and oral feedback will be provided no later than 20 working days following submission

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) - Spring: All Weeks Mon 10:00 - 11:50