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John Rahilly


I am an MPhil/PhD student at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Urban Science (2015-2019), conducting research focused upon analysing the relationship between Planning Policy and Urban Green Infrastructure at both National and Local levels.

I hold an MSc Distinction in Environmental Bioscience from Warwick University (2012 - 2013) in addition to an upper second-class undergraduate honours degree in Philosophy and Politics (2002 - 2005) from the University of Liverpool. I also bring experience acquired through a number of years in employment in policy and strategy within local government, allied to producing myriad reports for various organisations, including West Midlands Police and the UK Home Office.

Research Interests

My primary research interests pertain to the analysis of policy impacts upon the urban environment and society. I am seeking to develop novel data analytic approaches with which to quantitatively analyse the relationship between National Policy and prevalence of 'urban green infrastructure', which will inform a subsequent qualitative analysis in regards to local variables.

Research: A Green and Pleasant Land? Investigating the Relationship between Planning Policy and 'Urban Green Infrastructure'

Globally the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries have seen a rapid demographic shift in population from rural to urban living. The proportion of the world’s population living in urban settlements rose by 16% between 1900 and 1950 and accelerated thereafter as a further 20% increase occurred between 1950 and 2005, from around 730 million [29%] to 3.2 billion [49%]. By 2014 this proportion had reached an unprecedented 54% and was predicted to continue unabated, with research contradictorily forecasting urban populations to constitute between 69.6% by 2050.

Although somewhat incongruous with widely held perceptions of England as a predominantly urban country, as of 2011 only 10.6% [1,382,187 Ha] of total land cover was recorded as such. Whereas in contrast, a total of 69.7% [9,088,532 Ha] was allocated for agricultural use, consisting of 7,210,844 Ha of enclosed farmland and 1,877,688 Ha of Semi-natural Grassland. However, between 2006 and 2012 around 225,200 Hectares of green space had been converted to artificial surfaces throughout the UK. The 225,200 Hectares of ‘lost’ land was highlighted as evidence of the continued encroachment of urban areas into natural land at a particularly prescient moment, in which it can be contended the legislative initiative has tipped towards enabling greater levels of development on previously protected countryside.

In 2012, the UK Conservative led coalition government continued the fundamental amendments to the planning system they had initiated with the Localism Act 2011, through the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF]. Within a short period of the revised planning system being announced a substantial amount of media attention began to focus upon the reported catastrophic effects it was predicted to have upon rural England, primarily through diminished restriction in regards to development on the Green Belt.

Despite a relatively high level of political focus being placed upon planning policy, there has been limited academic research which has sought to quantitatively assess its effects upon ‘green infrastructure’. The planning system must be utilised efficiently in order to ensure the retention of vital ecosystem services. A contention can be postulated that it is therefore essential that methods are developed with which to derive a greater understanding of the relationship between policy, implementation and effect. Whilst, research has been undertaken in this regard, it can be considered to offer limited generalizable insight. Therefore, this research will initially utilise multiple data sources, including novel spatial approaches, in relation to defined representative subject local authority areas. Consideration will subsequently be given to the local differences and attempt to develop an advanced understanding of the confounding features, which may be deemed to influence such.

Accordingly, it is the primary aim of this research to investigate the historic relationship between planning policy and the prevalence of green infrastructure land. Subsequently informing analysis of the potential impacts upon the sustainability of ecosystem services.

The initial stage of the research will focus upon discerning generalizable relationships between the enactment of planning policy at a national level and the prevalence of green infrastructure. A broad hypothesis can be derived from both media reporting and legal analysis, suggesting that the most recently adopted policy approach has enabled sprawl into peri-urban green space, which may consequently assist the protection of urban green space. However, there has been no quantitative analysis undertaken with which to support this assumption.

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John Rahilly

J dot Rahilly at warwick dot ac dot uk