Thomas verbeek phd


Thomas Verbeek

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While public health and urban planning were closely linked in the past, the relation has turned into a lock-in of two procedurally interrelated, but in fact disconnected domains of knowledge and action. In most cases, health intersects with spatial planning processes only through obligatory evaluations or restrictive environmental legislation. This institutionalization of health criteria in most western countries has difficulty in dealing with the rapidly changing spatial conditions of our complex society, the growing awareness of environmental impacts and the increasing empowerment and engagement of citizens.

This dissertation aims to move beyond this lock-in and explores new approaches to deal with environmental health concerns in planning practice. Building on complexity theory, an environmental justice framework is proposed to localize environmentally unhealthy situations, and a matrix of planning strategies is presented to address these situations. To verify whether these theoretical insights could help to solve urban environmental health conflicts, an empirical research methodology was developed consisting of interviews, spatial data analysis, documentary analysis and a residents' survey. This research framework was applied to the city of Ghent (Belgium) in close collaboration with the city administrations and a local citizen initiative. By combining quantitative with qualitative results, case-specific and general policy recommendations were formulated that can lead to a more central place for health in urban planning.

About the author

Thomas Verbeek (1985) holds a Master of Geography (Ghent University, 2007) and a Master of Urbanism and Spatial Planning (Ghent University, 2009). From 2010 to 2016, he worked as a research and teaching assistant at the Centre for Mobility and Spatial Planning at Ghent University, which provided him with the opportunity to carry out a PhD research project. His research interests include environmental health, urban governance and spatial justice.