Spotlight on... Professor Nick Gallent
20 April 2023
This week we meet Nick Gallent, Professor at the Bartlett School of Planning and co-chair of the Justice and Equality Working Group. Here, Nick chats to us about his research – which is currently on display at the Grand Challenges exhibition on campus.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I’m a Professor at the Bartlett School of Planning. I generally teach in the field of ‘housing’ – specifically the role that planning plays in supporting housing delivery. My research is broadly in the same area, but looks more specifically at affordable housing for rural communities. So, teaching and research, with a smattering of collaboration with policy groups.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined in the autumn of 1999, so it’s getting on to 24 years at UCL. I spent eight of those 24 years as Head of School. Prior to coming to UCL, I worked in Manchester and Cardiff.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Surviving eight years as Head of School has to be up there, but I’m also proud of my work conducting policy-focused research in partnership with housing providers. There is huge benefit to be had from exposure to everyday practice – for researchers and for their students. Being involved with Grand Challenges for the last seven years has been a highlight too, and I also recently became co-chair of the Justice and Equality Working Group. It’s a great way to build connections across UCL and beyond.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list
We’re working with a network of housing associations and national policy/interest groups on ‘what works’ in the delivery of Rural Exception Sites. In a nutshell: affordable homes are really important for rural communities; homes are less affordable where there are many demands on the available stock, and too few homes available to absorb those demands. Allowing housing associations (now called ‘registered providers’) to build rented homes on land where market homes for sale wouldn’t be allowed is a way to cut land costs, and therefore reduce total development costs – making rents affordable. There are complexities in this, and barriers to delivery. Our research, some of which is featured in the Grand Challenges exhibition currently on display in the Cloisters, tries to unpack these complexities, allowing us to contribute insights into good practice in rural housing provision. Finishing this work, and hopefully moving on to similar projects that impact policy and practice, is top of my to-do list.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Film has to be Withnail and I. It's perfect for a researcher working on rural areas (‘I’m in a park and I’m practically dead – what good’s the countryside?’). I split my album listening between things I really like (anything by Rino Gaetano) and the albums my younger daughter re-introduces me to from TikTok (anything by AC/DC or Aerosmith). The novel that springs to mind is John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids – remember the scene of survivors trying to organise themselves outside Senate House?
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
The one about the polar bear entering a bar and the later comment about the ‘long paws’. It has to be verbalised and doesn’t work on paper.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Given that my favourite topics are places I like, wines I’ve drunk, and 101 ways to cook various stuff, it would have to be Stanley Tucci (‘Searching for Italy?’), well-behaved versions of my daughters (who’d remember Tucci from The Hunger Games), and miscellaneous Sardinian guests who share my wine and food passions. My wife says she’d like to come too.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s a marathon and not a sprint, which is the advice I give to my daughters.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
Home working allows me to slow roast tonight’s dinner in the background. It’s the only plus of hybrid working I can think of. My passion for cooking might surprise a few people…
What is your favourite place?
Cabras, in Sardinia. The greatest place on the planet (do I need to give reasons?). I perhaps should say that my wife is Sardinian and from nearby Oristano.