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Francesca Sartorio

Dr Francesca Sartorio

Senior Lecturer in Planning

School of Geography and Planning

+44 29208 76221
Glamorgan Building, Room Room 1.61S, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Available for postgraduate supervision


I have been working as a Lecturer in Planning at Cardiff University since 2004.  Prior to my move to Cardiff, I worked in practice and in academia in Scotland, Germany and Italy. My research agenda focuses around strategic planning practices, stakeholder engagement in planning processes and urban design cultures – with the occasional detour onto pedagogical issues.

In my research I see planning as a social activity involving decision making processes of political and technical nature, aimed at shaping and re-shaping territories and the future of localised societies in a never-ending process. I see territories (their shape, resources, threats and opportunities as well as the way they are described, treated and planned) as crucial for the definition and development of societies. And see planning and governance as strongly linked areas of public action, able of influencing and shaping each other in a continuous mutual exchange. I am particularly interested in how - in an increasingly globalised world - local milieus retain a crucial role in shaping practice and imagining local futures; in understanding and tracing the role played by key creative actors; and in how innovation of planning and governance practices emerges, 'sticks' and develops. These interests translate in teaching based on learning-by-doing and progressive pedagogies aimed at developing students’ (and future professionals’) agency through professional and reflective skills. I am a constructivist, I use an institutionalist approach in my research and my work is often comparative and interdisciplinary in nature. As a former planning practitioner, my focus is on practice and impact and I have engaged with government and professionals at many levels through my research, most recently with the TCPA, Welsh Government, One Voice Wales and the SE Wales METRO.

I have designed, lead and delivered over 15 modules and been part of interdisciplinary teaching teams developing new UG and PGT programmes. My teaching covers planning systems, comparative planning studies, urban design, participation and engagement in planning, research methods and I have experience in designing non-conventional teaching environment such as charrettes, flipped classroom, learning by doing. I have also been fortunate to supervise eight talented PhD students, with both internal and external funding, six of whom have already graduated. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and am currently applying for Senior Fellowship.

I have been an Editor of the Journal of International Planning Studies (IPS) since 2006. IPS is currently one of the planning journals with the most diverse geographical spread of authorship and readership and I consider its strong profile and international recognition to be one of my key professional achievements.

Despite the best intentions, I don't manage to dip my toes into planning practice enough these days, but I remain a member of the Italian professional board (Ordine degli Architetti, Planning section, since 1999) and I am eligible to join the RTPI through the Experienced Practitioner Assessment of Professional Competence (EP-APC) route to Chartered membership and the RICS - I might one day get round to apply for these too!

I am fluent in English, Italian and German – spoken and written - and am able to read and refer to French, Spanish and Dutch literature. I have recently taken my oath to become a British citizen through the medium of Welsh and am currently learning Welsh 'properly'.  After more than 15 years, I am well rooted in Wales and try to share my enthusiasm for progressive planning also outside our ivory tower. I have been a Director and Trustee for Planning Aid Wales between 2009 and 2017 and again from 2019; and part of the Civic Trust Cymru Policy Advisory Group between 2014 and 2016. And as a way of saying thank you to an organisation that has been so important for my personal and professional development, I have been a AESOP rep for the UK between 2015 and 2020.









  • Sartorio, F. 2016. Strategy at work: a decade of strategic planning in Wales. In: Albrechts, L., Balducci, A. and Hillier, J. eds. Situated Practices of Strategic Planning: An International Perspective. Routledge Advances in Regional Economics, Science and Policy Vol. 18. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 197-214.










Book sections





Francesca has been a member of the Spatial Planning and City Environments Research Group since joining the School.

Research Interests 

Francesca's PhD dissertation looked at strategic planning and research work was carried out in Italy (Milan and Rome) and Germany (Munich and Duisburg, with a base at University of Dortmund, Faculty of Planning, Department of European Planning). Her findings led her to conclude that - whilst 'strategy' remains an ambiguous term in the discipline - a) local narratives and local planning milieus are crucial in loading the term with a specific character; and b) that planning episodes that call themselves 'strategic' are more likely to introduce change in planning modes and governance in specific localised societies.

Stemming from work around her PhD, Francesca's main interests have revolved around planning seen as a social activity involving decision making processes of political and technical nature, aimed at shaping and re-shaping territories and the future of localised societies in a never-ending process. She sees territories (their shape, resources, threats and opportunities as well as the way they are described, treated and planned) as crucial for the definition and development of societies. And she sees planning and governance as strongly linked areas of public activity, able of influencing and shaping each other in a continuous mutual exchange. She is particularly interested in how - in a world characterised by globalisation and by multi level governance and dominated by a development imperative impacting on planning aims - local milieus retain a crucial role in shaping local futures; in understanding and tracing the role played by key creative actors; and in how innovation of planning and governance practices emerges, 'sticks' and develops. Her work often uses social institutionalism as a framework and links critical narrative analysis with participatory approaches. From this perspective she has looked at strategy in planning and strategic planning; planning traditions and the development of planning systems in Europe; cross-border lessons learning in planning policy making.

Current Research Projects

2020-2022 - Spaces of HOPE: Hidden Histories of Participatory Planning Explored, PI Sue Brownhill, CO-I Geraint Ellis, Andy Inch, Lorraine Leeson, Glen O'Hara, Francesca Sartorio (AHRC, 750K)

Past Research projects and consultancy work

January - June 2019, Cardiff University/KU Leuven Joint Collaboration Fund – The evolution of strategic spatial planning in small nation states, Joint research seminar (with Brian Webb, Neil Harris and Maxwell Hart)

Nov 2016- ongoing, Cardiff University - A lesson in civilization: 50 years in the making, the Scottish New Towns re-examined (Cardiff University self-funded)

Nov 2014-Feb 2015, Strategic Insight Programme – Making an Impact in Community Engagement in Planning in Wales, with One Voice Wales (Sartorio lead, with Selyf Morgan)

Jan-April 2015, Welsh Government – Horizon Scanning: future trends and the skills needed to deliver the planning system in Wales (Neil Harris lead, Francesca had responsibility for the section on government/community interface)

2012-2014, UKIERI Staff Exchange with CEPT Ahmedabad – Professional cultures and planning outcomes (Sartorio lead in Cardiff and Sejal Patel lead in Ahmedabad)

2012-2013, UKIERI  Study mission to CEPT Ahmedabad – Designing urban neighbourhood in Ahmedabad and Cardiff (Sartorio lead in Cardiff, Sejal Patel lead in Ahmedabad, with Mike Biddulph)

Feb-July 2012, Welsh Government – A New Approach to Managing Development in Wales (Neil Harris lead, a collaboration between Cardiff School of Planning and ARUP)

2006-2007, Cardiff City Council – Economic Appraisal of a Road User Pricing for Cardiff (Max Munday lead)

2003-2004, DAAD (German Research Council) - Creativity and Urban Governance in European City Regions (Klaus Kunzman lead)

2003, Initiaitvkreis Ruhrgebiet – The role of flagship projects in regional restructuring and urban regeneration

2000-2002, MIUR (Italian Research Council) – A web-guide on European planning resources (Giovanna Bianchi lead)

2000-2003, MIUR (Italian Research Council) – Innovative behaviours and creative approaches to planning in strategic contexts. A comparative study in Europe (PhD research, Prof Gianni Nigro supervisor; Prof Maurizio Marcelloni examiner)

1999-2002, MIUR (Italian Research Council) – Effectiveness of innovative planning approaches in Italy (Gianni Nigro lead)

Selected Publications


  • Sartorio, Francesca 2020. 'People and planning’ 50 years on: the never-ending struggle for planning to engage with people. Planning Theory and Practice, issue tbc
  • Brownhill, S., Ellis, G., Inch, A. and Sartorio, F. 2019. Older but no wiser – Skeffington 50 years on. Town and Country and Planning March/April
  • Sartorio, F. and Thomas, H. 2019. Freire and planning education: The pedagogy of hope for faculty and students.. Journal of Planning Education and Research, issue tbc
  • Sartorio, F., Harris, N. and Thomas, A. H. 2017. Interpreting planners' talk about change: An exploratory study.. Planning Theory
  • Sartorio, F. S. 2010. Fifteen years of International Planning Studies [Editorial]. International Planning Studies 15(1), pp. 1-2.
  • Sartorio, F. S. 2005. Strategic Spatial Planning: A Historic Review of Approaches, its recent revival and an overview of the State of the Art in Italy. DISP162(3), pp. 26-41. PAPER SHORTLISTED FOR AESOP BEST PUBLISHED PAPER 2005

Book Sections

  • Sartorio, F. 2016. Strategy at work: a decade of strategic planning in Wales. In: Albrechts, L., Balducci, A. and Hillier, J. eds. Situated Practices of Strategic Planning: An International Perspective. Routledge Advances in Regional Economics, Science and Policy, Vol. 18. Abingdon:  Routledge, pp. 197-214.
  • Sartorio, F. S. 2003. Permanenze ed innovazioni nella pianificazione e nelle procedure dell'urbanistica milanese. In: Nigro, G. and Bianchi, G. eds. Innovation in Milan.   Gangemi Editore, pp. 162-201.

Conferences and Workshops (a selection in the past ten years)

  • Ellis and Sartorio, 2019, 'Public Engagement for Our Times: Practical And Theoretical Reflections on Governance Traditions and Models of the State', ECPR, European Consortium for Policy Research, Wroclaw September 2019
  • Sartorio and Ellis, 2019, 'Transforming Public Participation: A Need for Transition in Practice, or Theory?', AESOP, Associaion of European Schools Of Planning Conference, Venice July 2019
  • Maden, W. and Sartorio, F. 2018 ‘Beyond a map of colourful lines: the multi-scalar dimensions of design in the City Region’, METRO and me: Making spaces and going places – SE Wales METRO Stakeholders conference, Cardiff, UK, October 2018
  • Sartorio, F. and Ellis, G. 2018 ‘Public engagement for our times: Practical and theoretical reflections on governance‘, UK/Ireland Planning research Conference, Sheffield, UK, September 2018
  • Brownhill, S., Ellis, G., Inch, A. and Sartorio, F. 2018 ’50 years from Skeffington: Participation in the UK’, UK/Ireland Planning research Conference, Sheffield, UK, September 2018
  • Sartorio, F. 2014. From adaptation to transformation: training design professionals for a global world of practice. Keynote at: XXVII Conference SIU Società Urbanisti Italiani: Italian urban planning in the world. International perspectives and cultural contributions and debts, Milan, Italy, 13-15 May 2014.
  • Sartorio, F. 2013, ‘Participation in Planning from Skeffington to today’s practices across the country’, Bristol, UK, September 2013
  • Sartorio, F. 2013, ‘Strategy and strategic planning at work: meaning, goals and processes from practice in Wales’, AESOP / ACSP Joint Congress 2013 Planning for Resilient Cities and Regions, Dublin, ROI, July 2013
  • Harris, N., Sartorio, F. and Thomas, H. 2013, ‘What we talk about when we talk about planning’, AESOP / ACSP Joint Congress 2013 Planning for Resilient Cities and Regions, Dublin, ROI, July 2013
  • Sartorio, F and Kinossian, N. 2011, ‘Road user pricing in the UK: changing discourses in times of crisis’, Interpretive Policy Analysis conference, Panel 36: Governing ‘mobilities’: analysing institutions, policies, discourses and governance, Cardiff, UK, June 2011


  • Harris, al. 2015. Horizon scanning: future trends and the skills needed to deliver the planning system in Wales.Project Report. Cardiff: Cardiff University.
  • Harris, N. R., Thomas, A. H. and Sartorio, F. 2012. A new approach to managing development: towards a Welsh Planning Act.Project Report. [Online]. Cardiff: Crown Copyright. Available at:
  • Jones, al. 2007. Road user pricing: economic appraisal. Cardiff: Cardiff City Council.


Since coming to Cardiff my teaching portfolio has fluctuated and expanded but kept a focus around engagement and participation, urban design and international planning, as you can see below. WIthin the modules I have led and taught for long periods, I have developed a pedagogical approach focused on learning-by-doing (project-based and design-based modules) for practitioners and reflective practice in planning (pursued in PGT modules mainly, most notably the Live Project).

Modules designed, led and delivered (in the past fifteen years)


2006 – to date: CPO259 Community engagement: participation, mediation and negotiation skills, 2nd year module originally optional for both geography and planning students and now core for planning students and optional for geography students

2004-2016: Contemporary International Planning, a final year module focusing on comparative international planning and planning systems across the world, core for planning and optional for geography students

2004-2007: Sustainable Towns and Cities, final year design policy module optional for planning students


2004 – to date: CPT831 Live project, a project-based module engaging with communities, charities and organisations, core for MSc SPD (formerly MSc PTP). This module has been consistently praised by External examiners year on year and every year since 2015 the best students’ project receives a £500 prize by David Lock Associates. Over the years this module has linked with other similar modules in Italy and Germany and included international charrettes to Italy, Finland and Wales. Students have also worked for Community and Town Councils, and the South East Wales METRO over several years providing valuable data for these organisations to develop their activities.

2015 – to date: CPT867 Designing Cities, optional for a number of PGT courses. This module has involved field study visits to India (sponsored by UKIERI) and international charrettes.

2006-2008: Strategic planning and Strategy in planning, optional for MSc PTP (now MSc SPD)

2006-2018: Researching Spatial planning, research methods module core for MSc SPD (formerly MSc PTP)

2004-2010: Research Methods and Techniques, core for MA UD

Contribution to modules led by others (in the past fifteen years)


2004 – 2018: Places and plans, first year design-based module core for planning and optional for geography students

2004 – 2019: Professional placement in planning practice, core for planning students on 4yrs/sandwich course

2004 – 2019: Research project, core for final year planning students

2015: Sustainable planning and development, inclusive of a field study visit to Berlin, optional for final year planning and geography students

2006-2014: Strategic planning in the SE Wales region, project based module core for planning students


2004 – to date: Autumn Studio, design-based module core for MA UD

2004 – to date: Spring Studio, design-based module core for MA UD Dissertation

2018 – to date: Development management, core module for MA UD (including a field study visit)

2010 – to date: Research Methods and Techniques, core for MA UD

2004 – 2008: Site planning, Design and Development, policy based modules core for MSc SPD (formerly MSc PTP) and optional for a number of other PGT courses

2004-2008: Planning: nature, purpose and instruments, core module for MSc SPD (formerly MSc PTP)


Employment history and charitable roles

Francesca has been in sabbatical in 2020. She previously had a career break of 12 months (August 2008 – July 2009) and has worked part time between 2009 and 2015.

  • September 2004  - to date: Lecturer in Planning (Teaching and Research route), Cardiff School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales - UK # Teaching (at UG and PG level), conducting research in the area of planning, supervising PhD students and holding various admin roles (see section 5 below). Editing the Journal of International planning Studies. AESOP (Association of European Planning Schools) School contact and UK Rep
  • 2006 - to date:  European Editor/Joint Editor/ currently Editor in Chief, Journal of International Planning Studies # Leading on journal directions. Overseeing review process. Leading on Special Issue production. Managing support staff.
  • 2015 - 2020: AESOP Representative for the UK (one of four), Association of European Schools of Planning # Linking member Schools and AESOP in respect to decision making on future AESOP directions.  
  • 2009-2017 and 2019- to date: Director and Trustee, Planning Aid Wales, Cardiff, Wales – UK # Decision making and overseeing the activities of PAW
  • 2014-2016: Board Member, Civic Trust Cymru Policy Advisory Board # Decision making and overseeing Civic Trust Cymru activities in respect to impact on Welsh policy (and vice versa)
  • November 2003 - October 2004: Research Associate, Fachgebiet Europäische Raumplanung, Fakultät Raumplanung, Dortmund Universität, Germany (European Spatial Planning Department, Dortmund University) # Working closely with Professor Klaus Kunzmann researching creativity and innovation in planning policy development and practice in a comparative European perspective
  • January 2003 – November 2003: Research Fellow, Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet/Fakultät Geographie, Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany (Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet/Human Geography Department, University of Bochum) # Researching creative approaches to regeneration of former industrial regions within a collaborative project sponsored by the Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet (grouping most heavy industrial stakeholders in the Ruhr region) and a consortium of all universities in the region (Dortmund, Bochum and Duisburg)
  • October 1998 - December 2002: Teaching Assistant (Part time), Dipartimento di Pianificazione Territoriale ed urbanistica, Universita’ di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, Roma, Italy (Dept of Urban and Territorial Planning, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’) # Supporting and delivering teaching of planning within modules in undergraduate and postgraduate courses
  • January 1999 – January 2002: Assistant Planner/Planner, Studio Nigro, Private planning Consultancy, Rome, Italy (Private Sector Consultancy) # Undertaking studies and surveys for the development of land use plans. Involvement in the production of land use plans. Developing urban design schemes. Managing and interpreting studies and surveys for the development of land use plans. Land use plans production. Main contact with clients. Advisory and supporting activities to a number of Italian regional authorities around the devolution of planning powers
  • August – December 1997: Planning assistant - Student Placement (Sponsored through the EU Leonardo Programme), Govan Initiative, Glasgow, Scotland – UK (Regeneration QuaNGO) # Supporting Planning and Regeneration activities in the Govan area of Glasgow
  • May – August 1997: Planning assistant - Student Placement (Sponsored through the EU Leonardo Programme), Strategic Planning, Planning Department, Glasgow CC Council, Glasgow, Scotland - UK # Supporting Planning Activities in the Department

Qualifications, education and professional training

2016, Equality and Diversity for Team Leaders and Managers, Cardiff University (Staff training course)

2016, Leadership and Management Development Programme for Research Team Leaders, Cardiff University (Staff training intense course)

2012, Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning, Cardiff University

July 2004, Dottore in Pianificazione Territorial ed Urbanistica (PhD in Urban and Territorial Planning), Universita’ di Roma La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

November 1999, Laurea in Architettura, Indirizzo Urbanistico (5-yrs degree in Architecture, specialising in Spatial Planning – MSc equivalent), Universita di Roma La Sapienza, Rome, Italy, including one year abroad with ERASMUS grant, one year in practice with LEONARDO grant and an Interruption of Studies to complete a PG Cert (see below). Full marks: 110 cum Laude

October 1998, Postgraduate Certificate in Regeneration of Industrial Areas (ERDF Sponsored), Universita’ degli Studi di Camerino, Ascoli Piceno, Italy

October 1995 – July 1996, Erasmus Year Abroad, Universität Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany

Professional memberships

  • Ordine degli Architetti di Roma (Italian Architect Institute, Planning practitioners section)
  • Fellow of High Education Academy since 2012. In my role as Fellow I have successfully mentored one colleague to reach Fellowship (Dr Julie Gwilliam, Welsh School of Architecture) and three PhD students to reach Associate Fellowship (Dr Tara Hipwood, Dr Ioanna Katapidi and Dr Gayle Wootton)

Administrative roles covered whilst in my current role

2018-2019: Member of the University-wide working group on the revision of the Cardiff workload model.

2017–2019: Chair of Extenuating Circumstances Committee

2016–2019: Joint Chair of Staff meeting

2004 – to date: Teaching team active member for: BSc Urban and Regional Development (formerly BSc City and Regional Planning), MSc Spatial Planning and Development (formerly Planning Theory and Practice), MA Urban Design. As such, I contribute to programme development and pedagogical discussions as well as participating in home and international field study visits and double marking/mediating marks in modules taught by colleagues.

2004 – to date: participation in Open Days in interviewing students, presenting (a ‘typical’ lecture), providing information to prospective students and their families at School stand

2014-2017: Chair of Ethics Committee

2016: Part of the UK/Ireland Planning Research Conference organising team: Chair of the Track on Urban Design

2010-2014: Member of Ethics Committee

2009-2014: Internationalisation Champion, focusing on developing and disseminating learning resources to teach international cohorts and developing strategy for diversifying international intake in the School, writing yearly reports for the HoS

2009-2011: BSc CRP Final Year tutor

2004-2008: EU Erasmus/Socrates programme promoter and coordinator

2004 - 2008: Member of the International Centre for Planning Research


I regularly supervise UG research projects and PGT dissertation (mostly between the MSc Spatial Planning and Development and MA Urban Design) over the summer. I have supervised an average of twelve students per year in the past fifteen years, between UG and PGT, with very good results. I have been very lucky to have such clever and dedicated people to work with! I remember them all with fondness, particularly those whom I met weekly for three years (or more) and that have taught me so much (about their subject, about teaching and learning and also about myself and my limits).

I am interested in supervising students in the following areas:

- Strategic planning and strategy in planning

- Engagement and participation in planning

- Urban design and placemaking

- Resilience in planning and antifragile placemaking

- Radical planning policy interventions (e.g. road users pricing)

Current PhD students

  • Mr Mohammed Al Sulaiman (First Supervisor, with Dr Neil Harris – with external funding from the Saudi Arabia Government); 2017 – on going