Town Planning Review 89.5 Featured Article

The editors of Town Planning Review have selected ‘Mass Transit Railway, transit-oriented development and spatial justice: the competition for prime residential locations in Hong Kong since the 1980s‘ by Sylvia Y. He, Sui Tao, Yuting Hou and Wenhua Jiang as the Featured Article for the latest issue.

It will be free to access for a limited time here.

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, Sylvia Y. He, Sui Tao, Yuting Hou and Wenhua Jiang stated the following:

Mass Transit Railway, transit-oriented development and spatial justice: the competition for prime residential locations in Hong Kong since the 1980s

In our paper, we examine the issues of spatial justice and right to the city in a particular urban development model in Hong Kong, a city known for it public transport system – particularly the Mass Transit Railway (MTR).

During a visit to the City Gallery in Hong Kong, an officer in the Planning Department of Hong Kong proudly stated that a reasonable amount of land near the MTR has always been reserved for public housing estate development, which will likely to benefit the low-income groups. On the other hand, some local residents have been complaining that the prime land around MTR stations has become less and less affordable as they are increasingly developed by private developers. These two conflicting views from different stakeholders prompted us to wonder whether transit-oriented development (TOD) is as euphoric as it may sound. Hence we are intrigued to investigate three related questions in this essay:
– Are Hong Kong’s public housing estates located in less desirable locations in relation to the MTR network?
– What is the impact of MTR network on accessibility over time?
– Whether the locations of private and public housing estates have changed as a result of MTR network expansion?

The situation of housing market in Hong Kong offers an ideal laboratory to examine the residential location choice of two distinctive income groups. Like in many other cities, the public housing estates are mainly reserved for the low income groups. In contrast to many cities, about 47% of the population live in public housing in Hong Kong compared to 51% in private housing, making these two types of housing estates a representative analysis unit to trace the residential location of the low-income group and the non-low-income group.

Based on the findings, our study sheds some light on the current urban development practice in Hong Kong: the low-income group is facing the challenge of being priced out from the locations with easier access to public transport. This study can potentially serve as a reference for other cities that are or aim to become TOD cities.


Town Planning Review 89.4 Featured Article

The editors of TPR have selected ‘Congested cities vs. sprawl makes you fat: unpacking the health effects of planning density’ by Ann Forsyth as the Featured Article for the latest issue.

It will be free to access for a limited time here

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

In recent years many planners have proposed increasing housing or population densities to promote health, building on similar arguments related to sustainability. They have promoted programs of metropolitan densification, to regulating maximum and minimum densities in greenfield locations, to urban infill incentives. Discussions about density levels and patterns have been at times vibrant and full of conflict; at other times the benefits or problems have been taken for granted.

Density has been of particular interest because, depending on the topic, different density levels and types appear to cause problems or create benefits, can typically be measured and compared with some precision, and are amenable to manipulation via the toolkit of urban and regional planning strategies.

Density, however, comes in multiple forms and intersects with a wide range of health issues making such debates complex. In many cases effects are mixed; high planning densities can be helpful, problematic, or unimportant got health depending on the type of density, health issue, and population. Density is often confused with closely related terms such as crowding or building height.

This paper clarifies the concept of density and distinguishes measured planning density from several closely related terms such as crowding, population ratios, and housing types. It conceptualizes how density relates to healthy environments generally. Exploring the case of design for frail seniors it shows that people can do well in different densities but for different health issues, different types and levels of densities may offer advantages. For example, lower building densities can help with air quality and higher population densities access to services.

Overall, density remains an important planning concept with relevance for both understanding and remaking places in the coming century.


Town Planning Review 89.3 Featured Article

The editors of TPR have selected ‘Minding the gap: the professionals’ view on the interaction between urban design theory and practice’ by Hooman Foroughmand Araabi as the Featured Article for the latest issue.

It will be free to access for a limited time here

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

Minding the gap

This paper looks into the ways in which the theory and practice of urban design interact and identify reasons why there are sometimes gaps between the two. A set of interviews with leading theorists and influential practitioners helped me to analyse the key factors and mechanisms that are (in)forming both theory and practice. Understanding these mechanisms will enable professionals (both academics and practitioners) to more purposefully progress the field of urban design. So, the paper minds the gap in two senses, first by drawing attention to gaps between theory and practice and second by presenting thinking on how to do something about those gap(s)!

This paper shares a wide range of findings. For example, it is evident that knowledge does not pass seamlessly from one party to another. Practitioners are busy developing their own knowledge that is situated, site-specific and practical whilst academics, in turn, are busy producing outcomes for reaching a high level of academic measurements. Nonetheless, the paper reports positive and provocative findings about the interactions between theory and practice.

Even though the interviewees were all English language speakers, the paper provides inspiration for urban designers globally. The readers can compare their own experiences with those of the professionals described here. This paper aims to be a first step in revisiting urban design as a profession, understanding its relation to more fundamental theories (such as social sciences) and finding effective ways to better link practice back to theory.

Journals, News

Town Planning Review offers bursaries for 5 PhD students to cover costs of ‘China’s New Urban Agenda’ Conference

‘China’s New Urban Agenda’ Conference will take place on the 1st and 2nd November, 2018 at Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), Manchester, UK.

The conference aims to have an international dialogue on urban challenges by bridging ideas, discussions, and perspectives between scholars from inside and outside China, between academics and practitioners, between early career researchers and established experts, as well as across different academic disciplines that share a common interest in striving for a more sustainable urban future.

Town Planning Review offers bursaries for 5 PhD students to cover the conference fee and the conference dinner.

Information about the conference is available here:


The Fifteenth Abercrombie Lecture

The Fifteenth Abercrombie Lecture will take place on Thursday 23rd November 2017 at 5.30pm in Seminar Room 5, University of Liverpool Management School.

The Abercrombie Lecture was founded to celebrate the contribution of Sir Patrick Abercrombie, one of the leading town and regional planners of the 20th Century who was Lever Professor of Civic Design at the University of Liverpool, 1915-35. The Lecture is held every two years and is sponsored by the Town Planning Review.

The lecture on ‘Congested Cities v. Sprawl Makes You Fat: Unpacking the Health Effects of Density’ will be presented by Professor Ann Forsyth, Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

For more information please contact:

Full details can be found here