The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Dr. Donald Brown

Dr. Donald Brown

Lecturer in Urban Environmental Planning and Urban

Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2018

Research summary

I have an established publications record in urban environmental planning in development, with a growing focus on the linkages between rural and urban areas and the health of urbanising populations in lower-income countries, particularly those in Asia and Africa. The common themes linking these two important subjects together are urbanisation (in its many different forms) and attendant processes of environmental change. My current research addresses the barriers facing rural-urban migrants’ ability to access healthy living conditions in India's fast growing cities. I am involved in a study exploring and comparing how rural institutions (of the chieftaincy) are transforming alongside the introduction of urban institutions (of the modern state) in the context of two ‘transitional’ spaces in Malawi: a peri-urban area and an emerging small town. 

Teaching summary

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

  • Health in Urban Development (HUD)
  • Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD)

Donald also supervises MSc and PhD students in their dissertations. He supervises primarily in the areas of:

  • Urban planning and governance, specifically informality
  • Urban living conditions and health, specifically the built environment 
  • Urban risk and its reduction, specifically disasters (everyday, small and large) and climate change
  • The governance of different forms of urbanisation, specifically though not exclusively small town growth


Donald is an inter-disciplinary development planner with a formal background in urban and regional planning. He has over ten years of international research and practical experience across a variety of pressing urban development issues, ranging from the informal economy to disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and public health set in the broader context of sustainable development.

Donald has worked with international and local NGOs, policy and research institutions, universities, hospitals, the private sector, communities and their local support organisations. His work has taken him to various countries throughout Asia and Africa, including Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, South Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand. 

Donald was involved in the ESRC-DFID research initiative Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) dedicated to breaking cycles of urban risk accumulation in sub-Saharan African urban centres. His doctoral research focused on environmental health risks in fast-growing secondary centres.

Prior to joining the Development Planning Unit, Donald worked as a planner in Malawi and as an international research consultant in the UK.