Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Learning Through Practice in Retail Geography
Originator Clive Morphet
Department Division of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, NE1 8ST
Tel. +44 (0)191227 3757
Fax. +44 (0)191 227 4715

The use of case studies is a well recognised teaching and learning device. Where case studies are both real and real-time the sense of immediacy and engagement is a considerable bonus. Retail planning inquiries have been used as a source of such real-time case studies.

The practical applications of the study of retail geography are evident whenever a retail planning inquiry takes place. As the planning regime tightens again after the considerable relaxation in regulation evident in the 1980's, so will planning applications, particularly those for new grocery superstores in edge-of-centre locations, be more frequently contested by Local Planning Authorities. Many of these will after appeal end up for determination by the Secretary of State for the Environment following the recommendation of a Planning Inspector who will have taken evidence in public at a local planning enquiry.

A great deal of information is generated as part of the inquiry process, but much of it is ephemeral: there is no archive for the various reports and proofs of evidence submitted. Acquisition of the information is made easier by attendance at the inquiry, but without the goodwill of the participants is not always possible to secure copies of important documents. The participants in such inquiries - both the Local Planning Authorities and the retailers or their consultants, have however proved to be extremely supportive in two recent planning inquiries in which students of Retail Geography at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle have been involved

The first, an appeal against a superstore application in Hexham, Northumberland, was contested on environmental grounds, and conducted without a formal retail impact analysis. The exercise in which students conducted one themselves has been reported in Morphet (1985). In the second example - the application on behalf of J Sainsbury to build a superstore on the western edge of Newcastle - retail impact was contested between the local planning authority and the developer. Students are engaged on behalf of a hypothetical client group in a critique of the retail impact methodology employed.

Students are acquiring a deeper appreciation of the geographical issue evident in such cases (one of the most interesting lessons concerns the interaction between politics and quantitative methodologies), as well as experience of a variety of skills and competencies which real world application requires.

The main problem with basing case studies on contemporary events is that new cases are required every year!

Relevant Reference:


Case studies
Planning applications

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Page updated 2 October 1999
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