The Bartlett School of Planning


Daniel Durrant

Research subject

Thesis title: The role of the third sector in mega infrastructure projects

Primary supervisor: Harry Dimitriou
Secondary supervisor: John Ward
Sponsor: EPSRC
Starting date: September 2011
Projected completion date: May 2016 

Mega infrastructure projects are traditionally viewed as partnerships between public and private sectors. There has been increasing concern at the way in which the governance and decision making in what are major undertakings for any society occur within a 'democracy deficit'. Costs and benefits are often opaque and the tools for assessing them prone to distortion. Despite the rhetoric of private financing megaprojects are hard to realise without significant public resources with the taxpayer often underwriting the risks taken by private sector actors.

With politicians and civil servants prone to 'capture' by project promoters one solution suggested has been a greater involvement of civil society in decision making on megaprojects. My research examines whether or not this would in practice lead to better, more transparent and democratic decision making. I explore the extent to which this has and will continue to shape megaprojects and whether or not it will produce infrastructure more able to meet the challenge of sustainable development.

Drawing on the research of the Omega Centre into over thirty megaprojects around the world my research uses the concept of the third sector to examine governance and decision making. Viewed as a space or tension between public and private sectors the third sector encompasses a wide range of organisations, actors and interests. This provides a useful point from which to view megaprojects as it contains a much wider range of perspectives than the binary conception of public/private decision making. It provides a broader understanding of projects that are massive human endeavours, the winners and losers they create and how they shape society and space. 


I have had a career in the public and voluntary sectors after a first degree in Social Anthropology at Swansea University. I worked initially in the National Health Service where I became interested in the role the third sector could play in providing housing, work and opportunities for groups excluded from society.

After a spell working for a housing association in Christchurch, New Zealand I returned to the UK where I worked in the voluntary sector promoting social enterprise. I combined this with part-time study in social enterprise and third sector organisations gaining an MA from Anglia Ruskin University in 2006.

I then returned to the public sector with a post at Inspire East a team within the East of England Development Agency. Here I performed a number of roles producing research and guidance in support of the previous Labour Government’s Skills for Sustainable Communities Agenda. Most recently I managed the Regional Design Review Panel. This furthered my interest in the way in which the organisational forms we adopt shape the world around us. I also undertook further part time study completing an MSc in Spatial Planning at UCL in 2011.

With the demise of the Regional Development Agencies I spent a summer fishing and exploring the north of Norway and Finland, an artic region with a unique range of cultures, languages and histories at the very edge of Europe. I returned to the UK in September 2011 to begin my PhD at the Omega Centre.