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

My current research addresses two key development planning issues. The first concerns how the fields of urban planning and public health can be reconnected in response to urbanisation dynamics and governance conditions particular to the global South, with a specific interest in the data needed to reveal health inequalities linked to environmental problems in and around the home, neighbourhood and city.


The second issue is concerned with how forms of urbanisation vary within and between regions, with a specific interest in in situ urbanisation (small town growth) and the implications for the role of planning in sub-Saharan Africa's urban transition. The aim is to explore and compare the institutional transformations unfolding in emerging urban centres ('transitional spaces’), the governance complexities these transformations present, and the consequences for establishing planning systems in historically rural territories.

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 physical 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 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 specifically 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.