Heriot-Watt research wins at specialist planning awards




Research published by the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) based at Heriot-Watt University was recognised last night in the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)’s Research Excellence Awards.

Now in its eighth year, the prestigious awards recognise and celebrate leading spatial planning research from RTPI accredited planning schools and RTPI members. 

The winning report “Meeting the housing needs of BAME households in England: the role of planning” written by Amy Bristow was launched last year, making media headlines and prompting discussion across the planning and housing sectors.  Winning the Early Career Researcher Award, Amy’s work was recognised for its methodological rigour and innovative thinking. 

Amy, who was a research intern with I-SPHERE, said: “I am enormously proud of this award and am grateful to the RTPI for recognising researchers who are early in their career for the contribution that we can make. This report is still attracting attention which is a testament to I-SPHERE’s rigorous approach.  The mentoring and support that I received during my internship from both my colleagues and the expert research advisory group involved in the report’s delivery has built a strong foundation for my future career.”

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, director of I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University said: “Amy and her pathbreaking research is a hugely deserving winner of this respected award. Her work is a clear demonstration of the quality of research being delivered by early career researchers in our field. 

“Her findings have better informed multiple audiences about the current disconnect between the planning process and the wider social justice agenda. We urge central and local government to revisit our recommendations before we rack up another decade of inaction in the planning process.

“We’re now actively recruiting for future interns. Our programme seeks to train and equip a new cohort of early career researchers focussed on homelessness amongst BAME communities to drive forward progressive knowledge generation and policy and practice change in this field. We aim to establish and strengthen partnerships that can effectively communicate and advocate for change.”

The winning research report, funded by Oak Foundation, found that the planning process in England is reinforcing racial inequality, despite having clear potential to support the needs of ethnic minority residents. The study was based on exploratory case studies and key informant interviews.

Further insights included that planners and housing professionals lack the confidence, skills and resources required to actively address racial inequality in housing, perpetuating socially conservative outcomes and limiting opportunities for achieving racial equality. 

I-SPHERE will soon be recruiting for a new paid research intern to undertake independent research on an issue of their choice on BAME homelessness as part of I-SPHERE’s ongoing major programme work for the Oak Foundation in this neglected field. Successful candidates have the potential to create real world impact through their work.


Annie Pugh