Dr Stephen Essex

Dr Stephen Essex

Associate Professor in Geography

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)



Programme Coordinator for the MSc Planning programme.


1985 Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Geography, University of Nottingham

1982 Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Department of Geography, St. David's University College, University of Wales, Lampeter.

Professional membership

  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) (since 1983)
  • Member of the Higher Education Academy (since 2000)
  • Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (Associate since 2009 and full Chartered since 2012)

Roles on external bodies

  • Committee Member of Royal Town Planning Institute South West branch, 2008-2010.
  • Executive Committee Member of the RGS-IBG Rural Geography Research Group, 2000-2005 (including Newsletter Editor, 2002-2005).



Teaching interests

  • Urban and rural planning
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Research methods

My main teaching at undergraduate level includes:

HTM216 Tourism, Development and Culture: This module develops an understanding of the changing nature, impacts and management of tourism in a range of settings.

GGH3027 Sustainable Cities: This module examines how cities are tackling sustainable development and climate change challenges in an increasingly urban world. https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/schools/school-of-geography-earth-and-environmental-sciences/geography/featured-module-sustainable-cities

I also act as advisor on a number of dissertation projects (GGX3200 Dissertation in Geography) and work-based learning placements (GGX3203 Work-based Learning). I also contribute to residential fieldwork modules in Year 1 (GGX1205 Geographical Journeys) and Year 2 (GGX2204).

At Masters level, I am the Programme Coordinator for MSc Planning, which is fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute. Further details are found at: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/msc-planning

My teaching on the MSc Planning programme includes:

PLG501 Issues and Values in Planning Practice (module leader): This module focuses on the development of planning theory and practice and the core professional values and skills relevant in contemporary practice (especially consultation, negotiation and mediation skills). It emphasises the changing demands on, and approaches of, the professional planner and the importance of maintaining an up-to-date skills set to ensure professional competence.

PLG503 Research Methods in Planning Practice: This module reviews quantitative and qualitative research methods relevant to professional and academic investigations in the field of planning. Information is a tool for policy-makers to use to make choices. The ability to build an evidence base for policy and evaluation as well as carry out and interpret technical analysis is part of the basis for the legitimacy of planning as a profession. The module also prepares students in the formulation of research projects as the basis for their own dissertation (PLG510/511).

PLG508 Coastal Urban Regeneration (module leader): This module deals with the challenges of delivering urban regeneration in coastal contexts, namely port, post-defence, seaside resorts and rural market/fishing towns. The visibility of problems in coastal towns has arguably been obscured by the government’s traditional focus on urban and rural categories, yet the population of these settlements is equivalent in size to a region. Coastal towns experience a combination of particular disadvantages such as physical isolation, often accentuated by transport deficiencies; climate change; high inward migration of elderly and transient/benefit claimant populations and the outward migration of young people; a dual housing market; ‘one industry town’ economies often based on tourism; and low education attainment with low levels of aspiration.

PLG510/511 Dissertation Research Project (module leader): The dissertation project is an opportunity for candidates to undertake an original research investigation within the field of spatial planning. The topic must relate to their chosen specialist options. The best of these projects are publishable and a number have been submitted to planning-related journals for peer-review.

Staff serving as external examiners

1999 PhD, University of Nottingham

1998-2001 HNC Heritage Management, Wiltshire College Chippenham, University of Bournemouth

2000-2001 MA/PG Diploma Environmental Policy and Management, University of the West of England, Bristol

2001 PhD, University of Nottingham

2000-2004 MA/PG Dip/PG Cert Tourism and Sustainability, University of the West of England, Bristol

2004 PhD, University of Nottingham

2005 PhD, University of Nottingham

2006 MSc, University of Worcester

2009-2012 BSc (Hons) Geography and BA (Hons) Human Geography, University of Worcester

2010 PhD, University of Nottingham

2012 PhD, Open University

2016 PhD, St Andrews University

2020 PhD, University of Nottingham



Research interests

I am interested in the planning, creation and management of human environments. I also work on sport and recreation, and tourism, and the spaces in which those activities and pursuits take place. The overall theme running through my research is sustainable urban transformations, with a focus on four main topics. First, my research has focused on the planning and infrastructural implications of staging both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games (Essex and Chalkley, 1998; 1999; 2004), including the urban design legacies of Olympic Parks (Sanchez and Essex, 2017; 2018). The second area of research has focused on the post-war planning and reconstruction of Plymouth city centre, using previously neglected sources of original correspondence between the key actors at the time, which has reshaped ideas about this formative period of the planning system and the contemporary conservation and regeneration significance of the city centre (Essex and Brayshay, 2005; 2007; 2008; 2013). The third main area of research has focused on the planning and regeneration of coastal communities, which has reviewed the policy response of coastal planning authorities to climate change (Young and Essex, 2019); the delivery of sustainable mixed communities in waterfront regeneration (Thorning, et al., 2019); resort deprivation and social exclusion (Agarwal, et al. 2018); the challenges of brownfield development on the coast (Leger, et al., 2016); and a reflection on 30 years of regeneration along Plymouth’s waterfront (Essex and Ford, 2015).  Fourth, my current research focuses on international sustainable energy transitions based on an Economic and Social Research Council/South African National Research Foundation Newton Fund funded project. This research is investigating the role of municipalities in the distribution of electricity in South African cities and the unusual barriers which exist to impede the creation of governance/management structures to facilitate pathways to low carbon urban energy configurations. 

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

AL-NOOR, A. (2019) Assessing Economic, Social, Political and Environmental Issues Related to Mega-projects: A case study of Merowe Dam in Sudan, Full-time PhD (Director of Studies).

JAKES, S. (2015) The influence of resort decline on social exclusion in English seaside resorts, Full-time (Third advisor).

FOX, A. (2014) Communities, Institutions and FloodRisk: Mobilising Social Capital to improve community resilience, Part-time,2008-2014, (Second Advisor).

DARLOW, S. (2010) Sustainable Heritage Management Practices: Models and exemplars in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Part-time, 2005-2008, Full-time, 2008-2010 (Second Advisor)

KELLY, C. (2008) Partnerships in the development and management of marine nature-based tourism, School funded, Full-time, 2005-2008 (Director of Studies)

VERNON, J. (2003) Barriers to sustainability among tourism-related businesses: identification and reduction, Ph.D., Faculty of Science, Caradon District Council, Southwest Tourism and Caradon LEADER II, Full-time, 1998-2001, Part-time, 2001-2002 (Director of Studies)

CONNELL, J. (2002) Public access, management and environmental responsibility: the experience of gardens open to the public, Part-time, 1998-2002 (Director of Studies)

NOVELLI, M. (1999) Turismo Rurale e agriturismo: realta’ del West Country (Gran Bretagna) e della Puglia a Confronto, Ph.D. thesis, Dipartimento di Scienze Geografiche e Merceologiche, Universita’ Degli Studi di Bari. Exchange student at Plymouth 1998-99 (Supervisor)

CLEGG, A. (1997) The Recession as an Agent in the Restructuring of Tourist Accommodation, Ph.D., ESRC Research studentship, Full-time, 1993-96; Part-time, 1996-97 (Director of Studies)

MASON, P. (1996) The Learn to Travel Project: A Case Study of curriculum innovation in schools, PhD, Part-time, 1990-96 (Second Supervisor)

JONES, D.J. (1996) An Investigation into Land Use Change on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, 1946-1992, M.Phil., Part-time, 1990-96 (Director of Studies).




AL‐NOOR, A., RAHMAN, S., ESSEX, S. & BENHIN, J. (2020) Economic Contributions of Mega‐Dam Infrastructure as Perceived by Local and Displaced Communities: A Case Study of Merowe Dam, Sudan, Agriculture, 10 (227), pp.1-25. doi: 10.3390/agriculture10060227

YOUNG, D. & ESSEX, S. (2020) Integrating climate change adaptation in the planning and regeneration of coastal urban areas: priorities barriers, and future prospects, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 63 (5), 912-934. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2019.1617680.

THORNING, D., BALCH, C. & ESSEX, S. (2019) The delivery of mixed communities in the regeneration of urban waterfronts: an investigation of the comparative experience of Plymouth and Bristol, Land Use Policy, 84, 238-251. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.03.019

ESSEX, S. & CHALKLEY, B. (2019) Mega-sporting events in urban and regional policy: a history of the Winter Olympics, Journal of Sports and Science, Vol.40, No. 2, pp.54-67. [in Chinese].

ESSEX, S. & de GROOT, J. (2019) Understanding energy transitions: the changing versions of the modern infrastructure ideal and the ‘energy underclass’ in South Africa, 1860-2019, Energy Policy, 133, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2019.110937

ESSEX, S. & BRAYSHAY, M. (2018) Devon Tourism: the story of the county’s economic leviathan, Transactions of the Devonshire Association (invited contribution to commemorate Volume 150), 150, 177-222.

Agarwal, S., Jakes, S., ESSEX, S.,Page, S.J. & Mowforth, M. (2018) Disadvantage in Seaside Resorts: atypology of deprived neighbourhoods, TourismManagement, 69, 440-459. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2018.06.012

Sanchez, R. & ESSEX, S. (2018) The challenge of urban design in securing post-event legacies of Olympic Parks,Journal of Urban Design, 23 (2),pp.278-297. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/13574809.2017.1395690

Brown, G., ESSEX, S., Assaker, G. & Smith, A. (2017) Event satisfaction and behavioural intentions: examining the impact of the London 2012 Olympic Games on participation in sport, European Sport Management Quarterly, 17 (3), 331-348. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/16184742.2017.1294193

Turner, J. & ESSEX, S. (2016) Integrated terrestrial and marine planning in England’s coastal inter-tidal zone:assessing the operational effectiveness of the Coastal Concordat, MarinePolicy, 72, pp.166–175. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.07.014 

Staples, J. & ESSEX, S. (2016) Design, disability and the planning challenge: the reality of living with severely disabled children, Planning Practice and Research, 31 (3), pp.327-346. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02697459.2016.1174974

Leger, C., Balch, C. & ESSEX, S. (2016) Understanding the planning challenges of brownfield development in coastal urban areas of England, Planning Practice and Research, 31 (2), pp.119-131. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02697459.2016.1146428.

ESSEX, S. & Ford, P.(2015) Urban regeneration: thirty years of change on Plymouth’s waterfront,Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 147, 73-102.

Page, S.J., ESSEX, S.& Causevic, S. (2014) Tourist attitudes towards water use in the developing world: a comparative analysis,Tourism Management Perspectives, 10,57-67. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tmp.2014.01.004

ESSEX, S. & Brayshay, M.(2013) Vision, vested interest and pragmatism: who re-made Britain’s blitzedcities?, Planning Perspectives, Virtual Special Issue: Replanningand rebuilding the blitzed city.http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/pgas/rppe-vsis/rppe-vsi

ESSEX, S. (2012) Torquay and the changing fortunes of tourism, Transactions of the Devonshire Association (150th Anniversary Edition), 144, pp. 239-271.

Kelly, C., ESSEX, S. & Glegg, G. (2012) Reflective Practice for Marine Planning: A Case Study of Marine Nature-based Tourism Partnerships Marine Policy, Marine Policy,36 (3), pp.769-781.doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2011.10.023

Darlow, S., ESSEX, S. & Brayshay, M. (2012) Sustainable Heritage Management Practices at Visited Heritage Sites in Devon and Cornwall, Journal of Heritage Tourism, 7(3), pp.219-237. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1743873X.2012.684798

Chalkley, B., ESSEX, S. &Evans, S. (2008) Geography and the National Student Survey, TeachingGeography, Autumn, pp.140-142

ESSEX, S. & Brayshay, M.(2008) Boldness diminished? The post war battle to replan a bomb-damaged provincial city,Urban History, 35 (3), pp.437-461. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0963926808005725

ESSEX, S. & Chalkley, B. (2007) Mega-events as a strategy for urban regeneration, Dialoghi Internazionali – Città nel Mondo, No. 5, pp.18-29.

ESSEX, S. & Brayshay, M.(2007) Vision, vested interest and pragmatism: who re-made Britain’s blitzedcities?, Planning Perspectives, 22 (4), pp.417-441. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02665430701553415


Sanchez, R. & ESSEX, S. (2017)Architecture and Urban Design: The Shaping of Rio 2016 Olympic Legacies, inZimbalist, A. (Ed.) Rio 2016: OlympicMyths and hard realities, Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC,pp.97-120. ISBN: 9780815732457

ESSEX, S. & de Groot, J. (2017)The Winter Olympics: driving urban change, 1924-2022, in Gold, J.R. & M.M.(Eds.) Olympic Cities, Third Edition,Routledge, London, pp.64-89.

ESSEX, S. (2016) Platform for Local Political Expression and Resolution (Barcelona 1992), in BAJC, V. (Ed.) Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and beyond, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke,pp.218-237. ISBN: 978-0-230-28955-0.

ESSEX, S. & Brayshay, M. (2013) Planning the reconstruction of war-damaged Plymouth, 1941-61: devising and defending a modernisation agenda, in Clapson, M. & Larkham, P.(Eds.) The Blitz and its legacy: wartime destruction to post-war reconstruction, Ashgate, Aldershot, pp.151-166. http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409436980

ESSEX, S. (2010) The Winter Olympics: driving urban change, 1924-2014, in Gold, J.R. & M.M.(Eds.) Olympic Cities, Second Edition, Routledge, London, pp.56-79.ISBN 978-0-415-48658-3.

ESSEX, S. (2010) Post-event legacies from the Olympic Games, in Ostergaard Bang, K. (Ed.) Events and After, Center for Urbanism, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts,Copenhagen, pp.13-20. ISBN 978-87-7830-211-3.

Hobson, K. AND ESSEX, S.(2008) Sustainable Tourism: A View from Accommodation Businesses, in Page, S.& Connell, J. (Eds.) Sustainable Tourism: Critical Concepts in theSocial Sciences, Volume III Destinations: Progress and Applications ofprinciples, Routledge, London, pp.228-241.

Vernon, J., ESSEX, S.,Pinder, D. & Curry, K. (2008) Collaborative policymaking: local sustainable projects, in Page, S. & Connell, J. (Eds.) Sustainable Tourism:Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences, Volume IV Planning and Public Policy Directions, Routledge, London, pp.96-117.

ESSEX, S. & Chalkley, B. (2009) Mega-sporting events in urban and regional policy: a history of the Winter Olympics, in Page, S. & Connell, J. (Eds.) Event Tourism: Critical Concepts, Routledge, London, Chapter 32, pp. ISBN978-0-415-47517-4.

ESSEX, S. & Chalkley, B. (2009) Olympic Games: catalyst of urban change, in Page, S. & Connell, J. (Eds.) Event Tourism: Critical Concepts, Routledge, London, Chapter 34, pp. ISBN 978-0-415-47517-4.

ESSEX, S. & Chalkley, B.(2007) The Winter Olympics: driving urban change, 1924-2002, in Gold, J.R.& M.M. (Eds.) Olympic Cities, Routledge, London, pp.48-58. ISBN978-0-415-37407-1.

ESSEX, S. & Chalkley, B. (2007) Olympic Games: catalyst of urban change, in Page, S. & Connell, J. (Eds.) Leisure Studies: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences, Vol. 2 Leisure, Space and Place, Routledge, London, pp.309-330.ISBN 10: 0-415-41226-9.



Reports & invited lectures

ESSEX, S. (2019) The depiction of planners in Jill Craigie’s ‘The Way We Live’ film (1946), Making the Grade: Women Directing Documentary Park and Present Conference, Plymouth Arts Centre Cinema, Plymouth College of Art, 23 November, 2019.

ESSEX, S. (2019) Post-war reconstruction of Plymouth, European Council of Spatial Planners 13th Biennial of European Towns and Town Planners, University of Plymouth, 11 September, 2019.

ESSEX, S. (2019) The social issues facing coastal communities and planning responses, RTPI SW Regional Conference: Marine and Coastal Planning Retreat! Planning the future of our coastal areas, RNLI Lifeboat College, Poole, 12 June, 2019.

DE GROOT, J. & Essex, S. (2018) Energy transitions in urban South Africa, 1860-2017: Energy Justice and the changing ‘energy underclass’, 7th Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN) conference on Transforming Energy Access, Session on Energy Justice, University of Loughborough, 30 May-1 June 2018.

ESSEX, S. & de Groot, J. (2017) Understanding Energy Transitions in UrbanSouth Africa, 1860-2017, RGS-IBGAnnual International Conference 2017, 29 August – 1 September, 2017, ImperialCollege, London.

ESSEX, S. & de Groot, J. (2017) Sixty years of energy transition in urbanSouth Africa: the changing ‘energy underclass’, Strategies for SustainableEnergy Transitions in urban Sub-Saharan Africa International ResearchConference, Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER),University of Ghana and Energy Institute, University College London, Accra,19-20 June, 2017. 

ESSEX, S. & Ford, P. (2015)   Urban regeneration: thirty yearsof change on Plymouth’s waterfront, Devonshire Association Annual Meeting,Bedford Hotel, Tavistock, 6 June, 2015.

ESSEX, S. (2014)  Planningfor Coastal Communities: the evolving policy response, RTPI SW RegionalConference: Planning on the Edge – managing change in coastal communities, TheHeadland Hotel, Newquay, 19 September, 2014.

ESSEX, S. (2014)   Lookingback: The Implementation of The Plan For Plymouth, 70thAnniversary of the post-war Plan for Plymouth: looking back and lookingforward, Plymouth City Museum, 25 April, 2014.

ESSEX, S. & Perkins, R. (2013) The Olympics as global governmentality (?), in Olympic Legacies and Sustainable Urban Development: Theoretical Debates Session, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013, Imperial College, London (28 August, 2013).

ESSEX, S. (2012) London 2012: Delivering sustainability legacies through the Olympic Games, International Seminar on World Events and Urban Change, Universidad de Sevilla. (26-28 November, 2012).

ESSEX, S. (2012) Environmental & social sustainability: the impact of the Olympic Games, From London to Brazil: Social Change and the Sporting Mega-event Conference, British Library, London (5 November, 2012).

ESSEX, S. (2012) Torquay and the changing fortunes of tourism, 150th Anniversary Conference of the Devonshire Association, Torquay Museum, Torquay. (25-26 May, 2012).

ESSEX, S. (2012) Waterfront regeneration in Plymouth, Colloque International: Ports de plaisance and urbanité, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale, Boulogne-sur-Mer. (25-27 January, 2012).

ESSEX, S. (2011) Planning for Plymouth: Mapping the development of a maritime city, Society of Cartographers 47th Annual Summer School Conference, University of Plymouth. (5-7 September, 2011)

ESSEX, S. (2010) The post-war battle to replan Plymouth, The Blitz and its Legacy, University of Westminster. (3-4 September, 2010)

ESSEX, S. & Gould, J. (2008) Plymouth: city of the welfare state in the twenty-first century, Heritage in reconstruction/heritage of reconstruction Conference, School of Property, Construction and Planning, Birmingham City University. (23 June, 2008)

ESSEX, S. (2008) The Olympic Games: catalyst of urban change, ‘Let the Games begin!’: the influence of the Olympic Games on a region, VUGS Symposium, School of Geosciences, University of Utrecht, Netherlands. (9 May, 2008).

Conferences organised

Conference co-organiser with Plymouth City Council for European Council of Spatial Planners 13th Biennial of European Towns and Town Planners, University of Plymouth, 11-13 September, 2019.

ESSEX, S., Yarwood, R. and Gilg, A. (2003) Fifth British-American-Canadian Rural Geography Conference, Rural Geography Study Group of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, Association of American Geographers and Canadian Association of Geographers, University of Plymouth and University of Exeter, 14-19 July, 2003.

Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, January 2001, University of Plymouth (Treasurer).