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Dr Neil Harris

Dr Neil Harris

Senior Lecturer in Statutory Planning

+44 (0)29 2087 6222
Room 2.90, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


My research explores the policies and instruments that planners use. I am especially interested in the formal and statutory aspects of planning systems.

I teach on several modules on our professionally-accredited planning programmes. 

I am a Chartered Town Planner and an active member of The Royal Town Planning Institute.


I started my academic career at Cardiff University with my thesis research on critical planning theory and planners' management of infornation within planning processes. This was inspired by North American planning academic's writing on 'what planners do'. I secured my first full-time lecturer role at Cardiff University in 1999. I have continued to research and teach in the School. My research continues to focus on the everyday tools and practices of professional planners.

I try in all of my work to link academic ideas with practical and professional concerns. I have worked closely with Welsh Government and the Welsh Parliament on a series of projects linked to planning reform. This includes giving evidence to and supporting the work of the Senedd's Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.

My formal academic qualifications include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Wales (2002)
  • Diploma in Social Science Research Methods, Cardiff University (1997)
  • Diploma in Town Planning awarded with Distinction, Cardiff University (1996)
  • BSc City and Regional Planning awarded with First Class Honours, Cardiff University (1994)

Honours and awards

I was awarded the Royal Town Planning Institute's Outstanding Service Award in 2018. 

Professional memberships

I am a Chartered Town Planner and an active member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Academic positions

  • Associate Dean - Assessment and Feedback, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Cardiff University (2015-2020)
  • Senior Lecturer, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, (2007-present)
  • Lecturer, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, (1999 - 2007)

Committees and reviewing

I regularly act as a reviewer for a series of academic journals in planning, including Town Planning Review and Planning Theory and Practice.

I have been a member of the judging panel in the Royal Town Planning Institute's Research Excellence Awards (2019 and 2020).
























I teach on a series of undergraduate modules at each stage of our accredited planning courses.

I am module leader for modules on property development and regeneration, planning law and practice, and planning theory. I also contribute to introductory modules on urban planning.

I currently act or have previously acted as external examiner on planning courses at Queen's University Belfast, University of Glasgow, University of West of England, Liverpool University, and London South Bank University.

My research interests focus on planning theory and professional planning practice. I enjoy projects that have both a theoretical and practical element.

My current and recent research falls into three main areas:

  • Enforcement of planning regulations - I work on both theoretical and practical aspects of planning enforcement and how planners react 'when the rules are broken'. I have principally written on planning enforcement using a Foucauldian lens, addressing issues of surveillance and compliance.

  • Exceptions to planning rules - I am examining how planners design and interpret rules, including when these rules allow for exceptions to be made. I have explored this in relation to One Planet Development in Wales. I have also started to devise a framework for systematically examining rules in planning policy. I am designing a project looking at other exceptions to policy rules that restrict new housing in the countryside in the United Kingdom, including buildings of exceptional architectural quality.

  • Planning reforms in Wales - I also engage in research and consultancy work, including with partner organisations, focused on changes to the planning system in Wales. This includes national spatial planning frameworks, affordable housing, delivery of housing land, and measuring the outcomes of planning.


I am especially interested in supervising PhD research in the following areas:

  • planning regulation and control
  • planning enforcement
  • planning theory
  • spatial planning strategies

I am currently supervising PhD research on the development of 'white land' in Saudi Arabia (Mohammed Alsulaiman), and the evolution of legislation on the consenting of nationally-significant infrastructure (Richard Rees).

I have examined PhD theses at University of Sheffield, Ulster University, and KU Leuven.

Past projects

I have supervised the following researchers through to successful defence of their thesis:

  • Rebecca Windemer (2019) - Managing (im)permanence: end-of-life challenges for the wind and solar energy sectors - co-supervised with Richard Cowell
  • Bob Croydon (2017) - Patronage, power and probity: accountability and aspiration in publicly-funded development - co-supervised with Huw Thomas
  • Ioanna Katapidi (2015) - Perceiving heritage in Greek traditional settlements - co-supervised with Francesca Sartorio
  • Gareth Abrahams (2015) - Deleuze's philosophy and its usefulness to planning: a case study of BRE assessments - co-supervised with Richard Cowell
  • Ulrich Doenitz (2011) - Young people and urban planning - co-supervised with Huw Thomas
  • An-Ting Cheng (2009) - Policy co-ordination and land-use planning - co-supervised with Huw Thomas