Developed within a changed economic and policy context the Planning sub-group has evolved from a traditional land and property development portfolio and has expanded its expertise to incorporate capacity in sustainability, community planning, development management, policy process, modernisation and reform of planning. The major focus is on planning and development within the context of Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland, which offers excellent opportunities to undertake applied planning research in two very different institutional and regulatory regimes; and engages with the appropriate professional practice and policy communities. Recent projects which illustrate the research activities by the Planning sub-group include: energy storage, mobile telephony, cross-border planning, rural planning, community planning and marine planning. 

Significant emphasis is placed on research that examines how emergent planning frameworks respond to the new policy and governance agendas at a time of considerable uncertainty with respect to shared futures, territorial cohesion, economic stability and environmental justice. Building on an established research profile in relation to property development and regeneration with respect, for example, to business improvement districts, housing and neighbourhoods, and cross-border relations, new research is developing in relation to energy efficiency in developing countries and planning for energy storage infrastructure. 

A critical aspect of the Planning sub-group relates to knowledge transfer, town and gown relations, and active engagement with professional bodies and the wider region. The sub-group actively raises the research profile of planning in a number of ways within the region, on the island of Ireland, across the UK, and internationally, through, for example, partnership with ICLRD (International Centre for Local and Regional Development), and active engagement in PLACE (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Communities, Environment), Belfast Healthy Cities, Belfast City Council, the Best Commission for the Future of Housing, and Planning Summer School. Colleagues disseminate their research at relevant conferences, such as the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference (PRC), Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) and European Urban Research Association (EURA). Members hosted the Conference of the International Academic Association on Planning, Law and Property Rights in 2012, which brought together over one hundred scholars and practitioners to discuss rights, responsibilities and equity in land use planning. The sub-group has an active PhD community examining a range of sustainability-related issues, including coastal regeneration, heritage value and integrated land use and transport.