The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Mr Donald Brown

Mr Donald Brown


Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2018

Research summary

Donald’s current research focuses on the links between urban living and health in low- and middle-income countries characterised by rapid urbanisation, exposure to disasters and climate change, and widespread urban poverty and inequality. In this context, Donald approaches urban health based on an understanding of its intersecting determinants in the physical environment (land, infrastructure, buildings), natural environment (soil, water, air), social environment (community), and institutional environment (governance) at multiple nested scales (individual, household, city-wide, national, international). In this way, Donald views urban health as a product of urban development processes and the institutions that shape their socio-spatial trajectory.

Linked to this, Donald's research interests concern the governance of urban planning and development in secondary cities, where a large and typically growing share of the world's future urban growth is expected to occur. In this context, Donald seeks to develop a better understanding of local governance through the exploration of infrastructure projects and the decision-making processes (formal and informal) that influence them. In doing so, he aims to shift attention away from viewing planning as primarily a technical capacity issue toward viewing it as a political process shaped by evolving institutional structures, with a particular interest in the relationship between modern and customary institutions in emerging African towns.


DPU60 Doctoral Award2016, given by the Development Planning Unit to one PhD student each year in honour of the department’s 60th anniversary in 2014. 

Chadwick Trust Travelling Fellow2017, given by University College London in honour of Sir Edwin Chadwick, one of the most influential urban sanitary reformers in mid-nineteenth century Britain. The fellowship recognises postgraduate students committed to public health.

Jeroen Ensink Fellow,2016-2017, given by University College London in memory of Dr. Jeroen Ensink, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The fellowship recognises postgraduate students committed to water and sanitation.

Teaching summary

Donald teaches on two MSc programmes at the Development Planning Unit:

  • Health in Urban Development (HUD)
  • Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD)
He provides additional inputs into modules that cover disaster risk and its reduction in cities. Donald also supervises MSc students in their dissertations.


Dr. Donald Brown is a Lecturer at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL. As a qualified urban and regional planner with a PhD in Development Planning from UCL, Donald has ten years of experience in research consultancy and planning practice in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. His work centres principally on the nexus between the environment, health and development in the context of urbanisation, disasters and climate change, and urban poverty and informality. 

Prior to joining the Development Planning Unit, Donald worked as an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Land Management, Mzuzu University and as an urban planner in Malawi. After relocating to London, Donald worked as a research consultant on a variety of urban development issues, with a special interest in urban risk and its reduction.