Professor Paul Chatterton

Professor Paul Chatterton


Paul Chatterton is Professor of Urban Futures at the University of Leeds. He is committed to teaching, researching and acting on the climate, ecological and social emergencies. Over the last 20 years he has teamed up with activists and campaigners to: stop fossil fuel use, transform derelict buildings, set up housing cooperatives development trusts and community research companies, support climate camps and self managed social centres, take non violent direct action, campaign for migrant rights and against military arms sales, and promote cycling and walking. He has published over 50 peer reviewed articles and chapters and written 10 books including Low Impact Living, Unlocking Sustainable Cities and How to Save the City. Paul advises business, councils and civic groups on climate emergency planning. He currently supports Climate Action Leeds in their 10 year vision to transform Leeds, and lives in the award winning cohousing community Lilac Grove. Twitter: @paulchatterton9

Check out my Civic Plan for a Climate Emergency and the Leeds Doughnut Economics Portrait

Present position

Professor of Urban Futures. School Of Geography, University of Leeds

Previous posts

2009-1015 - Reader, School Of Geography, University of Leeds

2003-2009 Senior Lecturer, School Of Geography, University of Leeds

2002-2003 Volunteer Solidarity work in Chiapas, Mexico

2000-2002 Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Newcastle

1998-2000 Research Associate, CURDS, University of Newcastle

Qualifications & education

1998 PhD University of Bristol

1991 BA (hons) 1st Class Geography, University of Newcastle

Other roles

2008-13 editor of Antipode

2011, co-founder of the public charity The Antipode Foundation

Associate Editor of City: a journal of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action

Member of the International Editorial Advisory Board of ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies.

Founding member of the Royal Geographical Society’s Participatory Geographies Research Group. I was elected as Secretary for this group for three years.

Selected publications

Darby S and Chatterton P (2019) Between and Beyond Social Entrepreneur and Activist: Transformative Personas for Social Change ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(3)

Chatterton, P., & Pusey, A. (2019). Beyond capitalist enclosure, commodification and alienation: Postcapitalist praxis as commons, social production and useful doing. Progress in Human Geography.

Rachel Huxley, Alice Owen and Paul Chatterton (2019) The role of regime-level processes in closing the gap between sustainable city visions and action. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions

Chatterton, P (2018) Unlocking sustainable cities. A manifesto for real change. Pluto Press: London.

Chatterton, P. , Owen, A. , Cutter, J. , Dymski, G. and Unsworth, R. (2018), Recasting Urban Governance through Leeds City Lab: Developing Alternatives to Neoliberal Urban Austerity in Co‚Äźproduction Laboratories. Int. J. Urban Reg. Res., 42: 226-243. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.12607

Chatterton, P. (2016) Building transitions to post-capitalist urban commons. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers DOI:10.1111/tran.12139

Stevenson, F., Baborska-Narozny, M., and Chatterton, P. (2016) Resilience, redundancy and low-carbon living: co-producing individual and community learning. Building Research & Information DOI:10.1080/09613218.2016.1207371

Chatterton P 2015 Low Impact Living A field guide to ecological affordable community building Routledge, London

Baborska-Narozny B Stevenson F and Chatterton P 2014 A Social Learning Tool - barriers and opportunities for collective occupant learning in low carbon housing Energy Procedia 62 492-501

Chatterton P (2013) Towards an agenda for post?carbon cities: lessons from Lilac, the UK's first ecological, affordable cohousing community International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (5), 1654-1674

PhD Supervision

I welcome PhD application in the following areas: 

  • Urban sustainability with a focus on low impact, collaborative housing
  • Coproduction and new models for direct democracy
  • Grassroots activism and social Movements in the UK and beyond
  • Alternatives to neoliberal urban regeneration discourses and practices
  • Ethical consumerism, fair trade, co-operativism

Current and past research students

  • Selina Keeton. Radical politics, community and deprivation. 2015-present. ESRC Scholarship
  • Yael Arbell. Collaborative Housing. 2014- present. ESRC scholarship
  • Rachel Huxley. 2014-present. The policy, practice and dilemmas of sustainable cities. ESRC scholarship.
  • Agnieszka Labonarska. Urban Commons and Food Justice. ESRC scholarship
  • Mattheus Grandi Visiting Ph.D. student 2013. Grassroots urban movements in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian government scholarship.
  • Neizhe Basak Ergin. Visiting Ph.D. student 2012. Social Movements in/for Istanbul. Turkish government scholarship.
  • Stella Darby. 2012-2016. Community empowerment and social policy: Case study research at the urban grassroots. ESRC scholarship.
  • Dylan Young. 2012-2016. Carbon, communities and contestation. The case of upland peak management in the UK. NERC/ESRC joint scholarship.
  • Marie-Avril Berthet Meylan (part time) 2012 - present. Nightlife as a creative time-space. Negotiating the transition towards the night time economy in Geneva, Switzerland. Self-funded.
  • Federico Venturini 2012-present. Cities and Grassroots Urban Initiatives: a Social Ecology Approach. Self-funded Ph.D.
  • Victoria Habermehl. 2011-present. In against and beyond: Mercado Bonpland as embodiment of the antagonism of the creation of alternatives in the everyday.
  • Bert Russell. 2008-2012. Politicising the Climate: Knowledge, Power and Resistance in the Movements for Climate Justice. ESRC scholarship.
  • Andre Pusey. 2008-2014. The really Open University: creating commons, cracks and new values in and against academic capitalism. Akroyd, Brotherton and Brown Scholarship.
  • Nalini Mohabir. 2008-2012. The Last Return Indenture/Ship from Guyana to India: Diaspora, Decolonization and Douglarized Spaces. Canadian Research Council scholarship.
  • Farai Maghuhna. 2003-2008. Remittance Strategies of Zimbabweans in Leeds and Luton. ESRC scholarship.


Book talk on 'Unlocking Sustainable cities'

Reclaiming the Good City [PDF FILE]

Research interests

My work is based on my central inter-related interests of cities, sustainability and future-oriented social change, and an approach based on highly engaged participatory methods and scholar-activism. My work is heavily collaborative and socially oriented in nature and is focused on four interconnected areas.

a)     Critical approaches to sustainable urban development, regeneration and governance

Stemming from my original work for my Ph.D. in 1998, I have developed conceptual and applied research in the area of critical urban development, regeneration and governance. This work has focused on understanding the socio-spatial dimensions of the processes of urban change, especially through detailed studies of sustainability and bottom-up civic innovation.

b)     Autonomous geographies and post-capitalist politics

I have also developed a body of work which focuses on exploring the constituent elements of life beyond capitalism. I have helped advance understandings and opened up a new area for study in what I call ‘autonomous geographies’, spaces where there is a desire to constitute non-capitalist, collective forms of politics, identity and citizenship. My research has challenged simple geographical understandings of activism as either place-bound or rootless and has established how political contention is established through interstitial (in between) everyday places and identities.

c)      Post-carbon cities, low impact living and transformational urban futures

The third area of work focuses on opening up new areas of future-orientated debates around the idea of post-carbon cities - an enquiry about the nature of cities beyond the age of oil dependency and novel and disruptive forms of sustainability and low impact living, drawing upon concepts of the commons, experimentation and climate justice.

d)     Participatory geographies, co-production and scholar-activism

Finally, I have helped pioneer methodological work in participatory geographies and scholar-activism which underpin all the above three areas. My research activity has always had a strong collaborative element, and I have developed a reputation as an inter-disciplinary scholar-activist with an international impact in work grounded in participatory, action-oriented methods. My work employs normative (looking at how the world ought, or should be) and critical political-economy approaches (exploring the political-institutional and economic mechanisms through which urban social change occurs). The intellectual rationale for this work is that geographic knowledge should have benefits for those affected by social, economic and environmental issues; that groups outside the academy have meaningful contributions to make to the coproduction of agendas, project design, analysis, interpretation and writing research outputs; and to develop more sustained forms of engagement and dissemination to policy communities outside the academy.

Current projects

Building capacity and reflexive learning for urban co-production. A scoping study for a ‘Leeds co-production lab’

Social, economic and political change have placed increased responsibility on local communities and institutions to work differently to respond to grand challenges such as climate change, low economic growth and widening inequality. New models are needed for the co-production of knowledge that supports policy innovation based on more inclusive processes. This project aims to explore the learning, capacity building and delivery potential of a partnership, the ‘Leeds co-production lab’. The lab will be a vehicle for bringing together residents, local universities, businesses, government agencies, third-sector and civil-society organizations to experiment with localized decision-making, shared research, policy-planning and other activities.

Common Ground. Participatory mapping and citizen engagement to promote neighbourhood social action

What would it mean if ordinary citizens had at their fingertips all the data and information they needed to understand and change their neighbourhoods for the better? This is the question that motivated the Common Ground project.

Common Ground was an idea borne out of Leeds City Lab, a six month experiment funded by the UK research councils in how to coproduce solutions in Leeds across different city sectors. Some of the main partners behind Leeds City Lab included Leeds Love It Share It, a community interest company which aims to promote new ways of working, along with the Open Data Institute and Leeds ACTS based at the University of Leeds. This partnership is funded from the Leeds Social Science Institute.

Transformational Routemapping for Urban Environments (TRUE)

Funder: RCUK 2016-18

UK Cities face wide-ranging challenges including: inequality, crime, housing shortages, infrastructure congestion, carbon dependency, environmental degradation, and low skills. Local governments are working to address these against a background of prolonged financial austerity, electoral disengagement, misalignments in priorities between central and other tiers of government, rigid funding cycles, organisational silos and low levels of information, all of which contribute to sub-optimal decisions that can intensify persistent problems and degrade public confidence. Given this context, this project is committed to transformation based on enhancing capacity to better manage urban complexity in ways that promote co-production and collaborative working practices, civic enterprise, retain local value and develop new types of institutions.

 This project mobilises a multi-sector consortium called TRUE (Transformational Routemapping for Urban Environments) to collaboratively diagnose interrelated urban challenges. TRUE represents meaningful commitment from the university, public, private and civil society sectors to collaborative working in Leeds. TRUE recognises that a step-change is required in the ways that current urban systems are arranged, and that producing this change entails first understanding the integrated nature of the complexities in current and future urban living systems and the factors (including capacity/capability) that anchor the effective delivery of city-wide solutions.  Once this understanding is gained, it is then necessary to establish the capabilities required to deliver them.  Finally, steps can be taken to achieve effective outcomes. Key to this is the ability to align stakeholder capability to the complexity of the undertaking at city scales. Failure to do so can result in cost and time overruns, political damage, undelivered objectives and outcomes and other unintended consequences.

A prototype tool was developed as part of this project at:

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Bristol
  • BA, University of Newcastle

Student education

I teach modules in urban geography and sustainable cities across the undergraduate and masters curriculum. In particular, I teach on the Sustainable Urban Futures discovery strand and the MSc in Sustainable Cities.

Research groups and institutes

  • Sustainable Cities
  • Social Justice, Cities, Citizenship

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>