Dr Gordon Mitchell

Dr Gordon Mitchell


My research interests lie in the field of environmental management, with applied research experience in environmental planning, natural resource management and impact appraisal, often through spatial analysis and development and/or application of numerical forecast and prediction models. A particular focus has been water – resources and quality/pollution, but I also work on air quality, energy and carbon emission, natural hazards, and ecosystem services. Applied research has included integrative work spanning all these areas, for example in sustainability appraisal of spatial plans under high growth pressure. These interests are fundamentally about efficiency – reducing impacts associated with urban growth and development, but I also have a continuing interest in issues of equity, and how the environmental risks and benefits of development fall differentially on people.

My work has been suppored by UK research councils (EPSRC, ESRC, NERC), the EU, UK national government and its agencies (including DEFRA, The Scottish Executive, SNIFFER, the Environment Agency and SEPA), industry (particularly water utilities and environmental consultancies), the Dutch Foreign Ministry, and charitable bodies, including Friends of the Earth. 

2017-         Director of Masters Education, and Director of Internationalisation
2015-         Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds 
2006-2015 Lecturer, School of Geography / Institute for Transport Studies
                   (Assessment Lead 2013-2016; Member of water@leeds management board)
2001-2005 Advanced Fellow award, School of Geography/Institute for Transport Studies
1999-2001 Senior Research Fellow, School of the Environment
1998-1999 Research Fellow, The Environment Centre
1997-1998 Research Fellow, The School of Geography
1995-1997 Research Fellow, The Environment Centre
1994-1995 Research Fellow, Department of Civil Engineering
1993-1994 Career break / travel
1992-1993 Manager, The Environment Centre
                   (forerunner of School of Earth and Environment)
1987-1992 Research Assistant, School of Geography
1984-1985 Marine toxicologist, Shell Exploration and Production (UK) Ltd., Kent 


  • Director of Masters Education
  • Director of Internationalisation

Research interests

(i) Impact Appraisal

  • Developed a stream of work investigating the social distribution of environmental impacts (‘Environmental Justice’). Original work to characterise the national picture with respect to air quality was followed by commissions from the Environment Agency, Scottish Executive, Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England and various UK NGO’s. Developed the UK evidence base (underpins relevant section of UK Sustainable Development strategy), and published recommendations on appraisal methodology.
  • Developed SMARTNet, a desktop software system to conduct multi-criteria appraisal of road transport networks. Applied DfT NATA methods within an analytic hierarchy process framework.
  • Developed software (WASP) to elicit preference weights from users via an online (web-based) system. Facilitates group based multi-criteria assessment with spatially distributed stakeholders.
  • Developed a method to devise Indicators of Sustainable Development (PICABUE). Widely applied, including by the City of Stockholm in its winning EU Environment City bid.
  • Part of an EU network on urban sustainability evaluation (BEQUEST); produced an edited book on environmental assessment with two colleagues, published by Routledge in 2007.
  • I wrote and deliver an MSc Environmental Assessment module. Covers EIA, SEA, SA, AA, risk, MCA, and various more recent developments (e.g. footprinting, LCA, ecosystem services). This complements undergraduate teaching on natural resource/welfare economics.

(ii) Hydrological

  • Household water demand forecasting for the Thames Water region, to 2100.
  • Theoretical work on how cap and trade could be applied in water resource management to reduce water stress / avert shortage.
  • Developed an urban diffuse pollution model for catchment risk management and sustainable urban drainage planning (EPSRC). Included development of a pollutant export coefficient database with land use specific EMC values widely adopted in industry (e.g. CIRIA C609).
  • Modelling to determine urban surface loadings to wastewater works (United Utilities), and in the national source apportionment study of the Ribble basin, NW England (UKWIR/DEFRA).
  • Developed econometric model of annual district level non-domestic water demand (EPSRC). Commercial applications on behalf of several UK water utilities over several assessment management planning rounds, with submissions to OFWAT. Five-year ahead predictions were within c. 1% of observed.
  • Investigated processes underlying upward trend in DOC from UK catchments. Devised a range of management tools and recommendations, including a predictive spatial model to support catchment risk management (Yorkshire Water).
  • For Shell UK, I worked as an aquatic toxicologist working with freshwater flume systems, and in the marine environment, mussels, hydroids and zooplankton, including establishing a chronic bioassay procedure to test multi-generational sub-lethal effects of produced water.
  • I teach on sustainable urban drainage, and water resource planning.

(iii) Urban Environment / Planning

  • The Geospatial Restructuring of Industrial Trade (GRIT) project mapped flow of money between 110 industrial sectors at fine spatial scale to understand how UK economy might spatially restructure itself under rising fuel costs (ESRC).
  • The ReVISIONS project investigated how urban form promotes or constrains adoption of ‘green technologies’ and the extent to which such combinations can deliver regional sustainability (EPSRC SUE consortium).
  • Investigated the impact of alternative growth accommodation strategies 2001-2030 using a series of linked models of land use and transport (MEPLAN) and impact methods and models (many designed for the project) addressing 22 social, economic, resource and environment criteria. Three major UK cases studies addressed, with policy recommendations invited by CLG and DfT. EPSRC SUE SOLUTIONS project with the University of Cambridge.
  • Determined impact of strategic road transport policies, including road user charging, on air quality using a series of linked models of traffic (SATURN), emission (TEMMS) and atmospheric dispersion (ADMS-Urban) applied to Leeds (EPSRC).
  • Co-led the University's RHS Chelsea garden demonstrating science of urban drainage, carbon sequestraton and pollination (Gold medal)
  • I also lead an undergraduate residential field class in Finland (Helsinki & Espoo), exploring relationships of land use, travel, and environment, within the context of sustainable place making.

PhD Students - Current

  • Hamad Alazmi (with Mark Trigg). Water scarcity in Kuwait: a backcasting approach
  • Arif Rohman (with Lex Comber). Natural flood mangement appraisal in Indonesia
  • Anne Stewart (with Alice Owen). Environmental limits in spatial planning
  • Molly McKenzie (with Martin Tillotson). Multi-scale planning for sustainable urban drainage retrofit
  • Mohamed Nasef (with Jon Lovett). Bridging the water deficit in Egypt

PhD Students - Completed

  • Karen Mullin (with Ruth Waters, Natural England). The social distribution of ecosystem services in England
  • Tariq al Rasbi (with Jon Lovett). Vulnerability to natural hazard in Oman
  • Suad Suad Bashir Al Manji (with Jon Lovett).  Resilience to natural hazard in Oman
  • Alice Owen. Green technology diffusion and adoption.
  • Faith Chan (with Adrian McDonald). Sustainability Appraisal of flood risk management strategies: the case of the Pearl River Delta, China.
  • Olalaken Adekola (with Alan Grainger). Valuation and social distribution of wetland ecosystem services in the Niger Delta
  • Paula Micou (with Adrian McDonald). Strategies to meet water demand targets of Code for Sustainable building
  • Jing Ma (with Alison Heppenstall). Microsimulation of personal travel carbon emission in Beijing in response to urban design
  • Baoyin Liu (with Yim Ling Siu).  Developing a multi-hazard risk appraisal model with reference to the Yangtze river delta, China.
  • Eran Sadek (with Linda See). Microsimulation of Domestic Water Demand incorporating expressed behaviour

I have acted as an expert reviewer of research projects, and project and programme proposals, for the following UK and international agencies :

  • Academy of Finland (Development research programme)
  • ANR, the French National Research Agency (natural resource management, urban sustainability)
  • Austrian Science Foundation (sustainability appraisal)
  • Fondazione Cariplo, Lombardy, Italy (air quality)
  • Leverhulme trust (sustainable drainage)
  • Netherlands Council for Earth &Life Sciences, Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) (flood risk programmes;  Polar natural resource programme)
  • Portugese Foundation for Science and Technology - FCT (air quality)
  • Public Health England (air quality)
  • Swedish Research Council (programem on Sustainability in the Built Environment)
  • UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - DEFRA (urban diffuse pollution, air quality)
  • UK NERC (panel member, Environmental hazards & infrastructure programme; UK droughts & water scarcity programme; KT programme)
  • UK ESRC (environmental assessment)
  • UK ESR-NERC-BBSRC rural economy and land use programme (RELU)
  • UK EPSRC (sustainable drainage)

I have also acted as a peer reviewer for 50+ ISI journals, plus books, book chapters and book proposals.

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


  • PhD Catchment dynamics
  • BSc Environmental Science
  • City and Guilds IT for Business

Professional memberships

  • Chartered Environmentalist C.Env
  • Full Member, Institute of Emvironmental Managemment and Assessment MIEMA

Student education

I teach an MSc module on Environmental Assessment that addresses a range of appraisal techniques (e.g. EIA, SEA, environmental risk, muliti-criterial appraisal, distributive assessment) that are in use in practice, whilst also placing such tools in a wider historical, legal and development decision making context. I also lead a module on water science and management with personal contributions on sustainable drainage and water resource planning, and lead a further module on urban growth and sustainability, that includes a week long field trip to the the Helsinki metropolitan region, Finland. Additionally I contribute a block of teaching on environmental/welfare economics to the natural resource module, Living Within Limits, and act as a small group tutor for undergraduates at all levels, including acting as dissertation research project mentor. As Director of Masters Education, I have led the development of a new online distance learning programme in Geographic Information Science, and am involved in forging collaborative teaching partnerships with oversas universities.


Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Spatial Data Science

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="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>