Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Transboundary Marine Spatial Planning

Marine Spatial Planning and Young People's perspectives

Women and Marine Governance

Blue Energy Marine Parks

Planning Law and Regulation within Northern Ireland


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Dr Heather Ritchie was appointed Lecturer in Planning in the School of Natural and Built Environment in May 2023. Prior to joining QUB Heather was a lecturer in Spatial Planning and Energy Policy in the Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment at Ulster University since 2009. She gained her undergraduate degree in Law from the University of Dundee (2:1, LLB Hons, 2004) and then went on to gain a distinction in MSc Environmental Planning at QUB (2005) and then her PhD (2006-2011) on Stakeholder Engagement in Marine Spatial Planning from QUB. 

Heather has considerable experience in marine social science research, action research and policy appraisal in the emergent fields of coastal and marine spatial planning. Her background in Law gives her capacity to look at regulation and legislation from a variety of different perspectives. Her experience in lecturing spatial planning provides her with an understanding of current policy issues and debates. She bring academic experience to projects and has an abilty to manage and mediate competing stakeholder interests. 

Heather is also a Chartered Town Planning with the Irish Planning Institute and is a member of the Marine Planning Committee and is currently in a deputation to the Marine Planning Education Committee. Heather is a Committee Member of: Environmental Planners Lawyers Association Northern Ireland, Marine Spatial Planning Research Network, MarineSocSci, Co-Secretariat Irish Sea Maritime Forum 

Research Interests

Heather's research specialism is in Marine Spatial Planning and Stakeholder Engagement. She also has research interests in land-sea interactions, planning regulation at the coast and beyond, transboundary marine planning, energy and the environment, planning education, environmental impact assessment, planning law, aspects of planning regulation (developer contributions). Heather has a track record of publishing in the journals of Marine Policy, Ocean and Coastal Management, Land Use Policy, European Planning Studies and Energy Policy. 

Heather is a Research Associate of the International Centre for Regional and Local Development and regularly contributes to to funding applications and conference organisation. 

Heather has acted as PI on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund project 'Knowledge Exchange for Transboundary Marine Spatial Planning across the Irish Sea' for DAERA. She was also the leading Ulster partner for an ERASMUS+ project 'Knowledge Flows in MSP' with several European Partners. Heather has experience of working on an ESPON project with partners from Ghent, Cork and ICLRD on 'Resilience of European Land Sea Interactions'. Heather has recently joined a project team with funding from the British Irish Council conducting research on MSP in Israel with the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. 

Heather has experience in supervising PhD Researchers to completion and has acted as both internal and external examiner. 


Heather has experience of teaching on Planning Law and Regulation, Environmental Impact Assessment and Marine Spatial Planning. Heather has completed her PGCHEP and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Heather is an External Examiner for the University of Gloucester BSc Urban Planning. Heather has published in educational journals. Heather is co-author of a legal planning textbook 'The Essential Guide to Planning Law, Decision Making and Practice in the UK' and is currently working on the 2nd Edition. She has contributed chapters to other legal textbooks. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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