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Planning and Environmental Management

Michael Martin

Previous education

  • 2009-2013 Master of Town and Country Planning MTCP (Hons), The University of Manchester
  • Won the Royal Town Planning Institute Student Prize for excellence in final examination and The University of Manchester Heywood Medal for graduating with the highest overall average in Planning

Thesis title

Re-using brownfield land in a context of weak property market conditions and dwindling public resources: the role of 'meanwhile land'

ESRC Case Studentship (in partnership with MERCi)


Research details

The economic restructuring of cities across the world has generated vast amounts of brownfield sites. Interest in finding new uses for these sites in urban areas is longstanding. In previous years the emphasis has been on bringing unused or under-used land back into productive use with public subsidy directed towards treating contaminated land or generating gap-funding in order to restore local land and property market functionality. Nevertheless, retrenchment in public finance and lethargic property market conditions, following the market crash in the spring of 2008 and the resulting recession, have left limited scope for the continued recycling of brownfield sites.

Throughout the recession, planning and urban development did not adapt to the conditions of austerity in which it sat. Instead planning policy and professionals within the built environment continued with the orthodox model of urban development – business as usual. By and large this resulted in the shelving of development schemes. Consequently many sites and in some cases entire areas have been left marginalised and plagued by dereliction. The naivety of contemporary urban politics and indeed the actors who make it has resulted in justified calls for planning to turn its attention to ‘planning without growth’, learning how to develop a viable and functioning city under conditions of decline.

It is this mind-set which the ‘Temporary’/ ‘Meanwhile’ agenda seeks to encourage; envisioning what a city can become without new development. It has been argued that ‘Meanwhile Land’ uses offer a more dynamic, flexible urbanism, where the city can become more responsive to the needs, demands and preferences of its users. Such uses have been shown to encourage social, environmental and economic benefits on brownfield sites, creating a perception of vibrancy on what was previously abandoned land.

The role of temporary use as a buffer for sites in which there exists a gap in the cycle of utilisation is now increasingly understood by planning theorists and practitioners, whether it be in the form of insurgent, guerrilla urbanism or an active attempt to generate cultural, creative industries with social and economic incentives. Yet despite this, the role of temporary use as a catalyst for the long-term regeneration of brownfield land has not been adequately critiqued nor has it been appropriately conceptualised. To date, ‘Meanwhile land’ remains an under researched and fragmented field; particularly in the UK.

The doctoral research seeks to bridge this gap by offering a new conceptualisation of temporary land use. By analysing cases of temporary use in the UK this research investigates the paradoxes and conflicts which underpin the ‘temporary’ debate: informal and formal actors; social inclusion and gentrification; regeneration and adverse possession. The research develops a typology and conceptual model which allow conclusions to be made on the effect of interim use a) as an alternative way of ameliorating dereliction and b) on the future development of brownfield land. 

Research interests

  • Urban design
  • Town and city centre masterplanning
  • Regeneration of brownfield land
  • Alternative approaches to brownfield land reuse internationally
  • Temporary land use
  • Development processes/actors
  • Planning policy
  • Localism
  • Neighbourhood planning


Graduate Teaching Assistant 2013 - present

PLAN 40501 Urban Design

PLAN 20072 Urban Development Project

I specialised in urban design whilst at university and am now lucky to teach on two of our major Urban Design modules.  This involves the creation of lectures, seminars and computer based workshops, teaching students a range of design skills from site analysis (contemporary and historical) to plan and axonometric drawing to fully computerised and modelled masterplans via the Adobe Creative Suite, Sketch-up and CAD.

PLAN 20502 Introduction to the Property Development

My work with this modules involves assisting with the delivery of lectures and seminars, as well as a day trip to Halifax.

PLAN20172 Urban Policy

I am responsible for assisting Iain Deas with the organisation of a five day field course on urban politics in Ireland/N. Ireland as well as supporting the day to day management of participants whilst in Ireland/N. Ireland.

My work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) in 2013 resulted in the department nominating me for the SEED PGR GTA of the Year Award (currently awaiting the outcome).

Open Day Assistant for Undergraduate Admissions 2013 - present

Working with Dr Stephen Hincks I advertise our Planning, Environmental Management and Real Estate courses to prospective students at Open Days. It is great to talk to applicants and share my experiences with them.

Additional information

Graduate Planner and Designer, BPUD Ltd. 2013 - present

My consultancy life at BPUD is drastically different to that of University, but I really enjoy the variation in my week. My major role involves the delivery of Neighbourhood Plans. As part of the BPUD Team I consult with clients, communities and statutory stakeholders across a range of parishes in the UK discussing what they would like to see in their areas over the course of the next 20 years (Neighbourhood Plan Period). Results from numerous consultation sessions are merged into a planning policy document subsequently forming part of the Local Authority’s Planning Policy Framework. My work at BPUD provides me with a unique exposure to policy making; fantastic experience for a graduate planning and urban design consultant.

I am also regularly able to get my hands dirty with design based work. I advise clients on site density and layout for residential and commercial schemes the only way a designer should, with a scale rule and mechanical pencil. I undertake townscape and vernacular studies which assess the potential scale, density, height and mass of prospective developments; co-write design and access statements which justify the chosen strategy, layout and design of a particular scheme and undertake Building for Life Assessments. My consultancy experience links well with my doctoral research and in many ways has strengthened my overall understanding of some of the major components of the topic.

Royal Town Planning Institute Ambassador 2013 – Present

My work as an Ambassador for the RTPI involves me delivering interactive workshops in the North West of England and Northern Ireland which educate school students (aged between 11 – 18) about the planning profession. The Future Planners Initiative has formed a major part of the RTPI’s Centenary Projects and has been extremely successful in raising awareness of the built environment and planning with over 100 visits to schools across the UK this year alone.

Co-ordinator of the UoM Student Town Planners Network (STPN) 2013 - present

I am responsible for appointing and managing the STPN Committee.  Created by a good friend whilst we were both at university, the Network aims to provide opportunities for the student body to become aware of potential employers and hear professional planners interpretation of the field through organised talks and events.