3 Alan Mace
Dr Alan Mace

Dr Alan Mace

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Studies

Department of Geography and Environment

020 7955 6847
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NAB 3.12, New Academic Building, LSE
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Key Expertise
Planning cultures, Cultural geography, London

About me

Dr Alan Mace joined the Department in 2010. Prior to this he worked in practice as a spatial planner in London alongside teaching planning at the University of Westminster. At LSE he delivers several of the core units for the Masters programme in Regional and Urban Planning Studies (RUPS) and teaches undergraduate courses in cultural geography with a focus on London.

His research interests focus on the interface between the conventions and institutions of planning and the priorities and perspectives of local communities. While many planning conventions may seek desirable outcomes, Alan is interested in the unintended consequences and/or the unspoken trade-offs, including of densification and green belt. He has framed green belt as a policy institution to understand why it produces such strong resistance to change in order to identify a route to reconstructing the policy with a new purpose that would lead to a reappraisal of its current extent. In relation to density, he is interested in how residents perceive higher density development and in the relationship between attitudes to housing need and the acceptability of densification. His research is also focused on the question of scale in planning governance, where he has employed empirical work in London and the Greater South East to draw out lessons on the challenges presented when seeking to resolve the differing aspirations and priorities of local and regional planners and politicians. 

Alan’s other broad research interest is in change in the suburbs. This includes research on how an increase in buy-to-let housing has led to suburban gentrification. And on how changes in the ethnic mix of residents across London’s suburbs is reflected in particular neighbourhood-based constructions of White ethnic identity. His interest in suburban change sometimes interfaces with his planning research, for example by focusing on the specific challenges of developing higher density housing in existing suburbs.

Current research

Green belt as an embodiment of planning. This desk-based research will categorise the different purposes and ‘life-courses’ of green belt internationally to demonstrate what the development of the policy tells us about contemporary planning practice and governance across different national settings.

Planning in left behind places. This research is concerned primarily with the contribution of local planning to improving people’s sense of wellbeing in and contentment with the places in which they live, where the inter-regional rebalancing of the economy forms a backdrop.

Left behind places resonate with the history of UK planning since the mid twentieth century. Planning has been closely associated with attempts to balance growth across regions, most significantly through the work of the Barlow Commission and the policy initiatives that followed. At the neighbourhood scale, many left behind places are large suburban public housing estates developed in the mid twentieth century, the spatial focus of this research. An important aspect of the ‘left behind’ is the relationship – and sometimes disconnect - between left behind places and people who feel left behind. This strongly suggests that in devising policy responses we need to understand in conjunction left-behind suburbs and those residents who feel left behind.

Expertise Details

Community engagement; Green belt; Planning governance; Second homes; Suburbanisation

Countries and regions

Europe; Japan; UK

Sectors and industries

Policy and Regulatory Bodies; Public Administration

Selected publications

  • Mace, Alan (2014) Book review: shrinking cities: international perspectives and policy implications International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38 (4). 1536-1539. ISSN 0309-1317
  • Holman, N., and Mace, A. (2013) ‘Compact cities in England’. In Gro Sandkjær and Hanssen Hege Hofstad (eds). ‘Compact City Policies in England, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway’. Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR)-report 2013:30. 13-44.

  • Mace, A. (2013) Review of 'Insurgencies: Essays in Planning Theory'. J. Friedmann. Routledge. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 37(1) 362–363.