Qingyuan Guo

March 15th, 2024

Remembering Patsy Healey (1940-2024): A Distinguished Scholar in Planning and LSE Alumna

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Qingyuan Guo

March 15th, 2024

Remembering Patsy Healey (1940-2024): A Distinguished Scholar in Planning and LSE Alumna

0 comments | 3 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

It is with profound respect and admiration that we reflect on the legacy of Patsy Healey, a distinguished PhD alumna of the LSE’s Regional and Urban Planning programme. Her contributions to planning theory are unrivalled and remain a staple of planning curricula across the world. Her death on March 7, 2024, marks the loss of one of the greats in the planning community. This blog is devoted to commemorating her memorable journey with the Regional and Urban Planning program at the LSE’s Department of Geography.

Patsy Healey was an Emeritus Professor at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape at Newcastle University, where she left an indelible mark through her significant contributions to planning theory and our understanding of planning practice. This includes her research with Jacky Underwood on the everyday life of planners in London boroughs, and later, her influential “Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies” (1997), “Urban Complexity and Strategic Spatial Planning” (2007), “Making Better Places” (2010), and finally, “Caring for Places” (2022).

Beyond her scholarly achievements, Patsy’s commitment to education spanned from Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) to Newcastle University, where she influenced generations of planning professionals. Her involvement extended to co-founding and presiding over the Association of European Schools of Planning and serving as a senior editor for the journal Planning Theory & Practice. Patsy was also the chair of a local development trust in Glendale, in North Northumberland where she lived.

Looking back, in 1969, as she approached 30, Patsy decided to change tack by enrolling in the LSE’s Regional and Urban Planning doctoral programme, which had been started by another planning great, Sir Peter Hall, in 1965. Prior to this, Patsy had worked at the coalface as a planning officer in the London Borough of Lewisham and had completed a diploma in town planning at Regent Street Polytechnic (now Westminster University). During her professional journey, she was fascinated by the complex mechanisms and interactions of local government planning processes, sparking a curiosity for deeper understanding that her roles had yet to satisfy. Motivated by a desire to broaden her horizons, she made the uncommon decision for a planning professional at the time: to pursue a PhD. Initially uncertain and tentative about applying to LSE for a part-time PhD, Patsy recalled she was surprised to be welcomed into the program, marking the start of her academic life.

Throughout her PhD, Patsy Healey was mentored by Derek Diamond, then the director of the planning programme. Her research commenced with a broad ambition to explore the extent to which planning—as both a concept and practice—could drive societal transformation. This initial idea, focusing on ‘Planning and Change,’ eventually crystallized into the central theme of her investigations. While Derek initially advised Patsy to examine the development of new and expanded towns within the UK, her research path took a pivotal turn towards Latin America. There, she was drawn to the rapid urbanization processes, culminating in her conducting two comprehensive case studies in Venezuela and Colombia.

Patsy often reflected on her PhD experience at LSE as being highly self-directed, a journey of intellectual independence that led her to spend countless hours in the LSE library.

This time was dedicated to understanding the developmental trajectories of countries and understanding the interplay between societal and urban development through a multidisciplinary lens. It was also during this period that Patsy was introduced to the emerging field of planning theory, which played a huge role in her later academic trajectory. Her rigorous exploration and research efforts were encapsulated in her thesis, titled “Urban Planning Under Conditions of Rapid Urban Growth – A Case Study Approach,” completed in 1973.

Patsy Healey’s legacy, marked by her innovative contributions to planning, continues to inspire. Her journey highlights a life dedicated to merging theory with practical change. Her work, rooted in compassion and insight, challenges and guides future generations in the field. Patsy’s enduring impact ensures her influence will resonate for years to come.

 

References

Healey, P. (2017) ‘Finding My Way: A Life of Inquiry into Planning, Urban Development Processes and Place Governance’, in Encounters in Planning Thought: 16 Autobiographical Essays from Key Thinkers in Spatial Planning edited by Beatrix Haselsberger, Routledge.

Healey, P. (2014). ‘Learning the Craft of Research’, in The Routledge Handbook of Planning Research Methods, edited by Elisabete A. Silva, Patsy Healey, Neil Harris, Pieter Van den Broeck., Rutledge.

About the author

Qingyuan Guo

Qingyuan is a Phd student in Regional and Urban Planning at the LSE. His work focuses on planning theory and its relationship to planning practice.

Posted In: By our students

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