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 area focuses on urban health, with a particular interest in how a combination of place-based environmental, socio-economic and political factors and the institutions and policies and that shape them (re-)produce health inequities in cities. The aim is to inform efforts to reconnect urban planning and public health to address the realities of rapid urban change in the global South, with a particular interest in poverty, inequality, informality and risk. The principles of social and environmental justice lie at the heart of this work.


The second area focuses on how rural settlements become urban, and how rural governance transforms in the process. The question is motivated by the renewed interest in secondary centres given the significant contribution they are projected to make to the world’s future urban growth. Many of these smaller centres are emerging through in situ urbanization, wherein a rural settlement becomes a small town. My aim is to explore and compare the institutional transformations occurring in what have been termed ‘transitional spaces’, the governance complexities these transformations present, and the consequences for 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 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 and climate change
  • The governance of different forms of urbanization, specifically in situ urbanization


Donald is an urban planner with a Bachelor's degree in Urban and Regional Planning, a MSc in Urban Development Planning and a PhD in Planning Studies. He has extensive research and practical experience across a variety of pressing urban planning and development issues, ranging from the informal economy to sustainable development, (disaster) risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and most recently urban health. His geographic focus centres on the global South generally and sub-Saharan Africa specifically.

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