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 interests centre on two key planning issues. The first is how a combination of contextual factors (environmental, socio-economic and political) and the institutions that shape them (re-)produce health inequities in urban centres, with a particular interest in environmental risks. The aim is to inform efforts to reconnect urban planning and public health in response to urbanisation dynamics and governance conditions particular to the global South. The principles of socio-environmental justice lie at the heart of this work.


The second issue concerns the governance of different forms of urbanisation, specifically how rural settlements become urban, and how rural governance transforms in the process. The question is motivated by the significant contribution that small and intermediate centres are projected to make to the world’s future urban growth. Many smaller centres are emerging through in situ urbanisation, wherein a rural settlement becomes a small town. The aim is to explore and compare the institutional transformations unfolding in ‘transitional spaces’, the governance complexities these transformations present, and the consequences for establishing planning systems in historically rural settlements.

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 has a Bachelor's degree in Urban and Regional Planning, a MSc in Urban Development Planning and a PhD in Planning Studies. He has over ten years of international research and practical experience across a variety of pressing urban environmental and developmental issues, ranging from the informal economy to (disaster) risk reduction, climate change adaptation and population health set in the broader context of sustainable development.

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

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 research focused specifically on environmental health risks in secondary centres.

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