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Luke Bennett

Luke Bennett PhD, MRes, LLB Hons, PGCLTHE, FHEA

Reader in Space, Place & Law


Luke spent 17 years in commercial legal practice as an environmental law specialist advising corporations and governmental bodies on liabilities for land decontamination and the regulation of waste and industrial pollution. He joined SHU in 2007 and since 2011 he has been course leader for the BSc (Hons) Real Estate course. Luke teaches built environment law across the department’s courses, and has developed a related research output focusing upon the point at which ideas, materialities and practices intersect in the use and management of the built environment, with particular emphasis upon modern ruins. Luke attained his Master of Research (MRes) in Sociology, Planning & Policy in 2010 with Distinction and his PhD in 2015. In 2016 he was appointed Reader in recognition of his research achievements. 

  • About

    Luke’s areas of research interest have been shaped by both his experience as a lawyer advising clients on the risks of owning and manging derelict industrial and military sites, and also by the need to train the next generation of property professionals about the challenges that they will face managing under-used sites.

    Since 2008 Luke has published over twenty peer reviewed articles, a book and two commissioned research projects. His work has been published in a number academic journals, including Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (twice); Geoforum; Culture & Organisation; Gender, Place & Culture; the Journal of Planning History and the International Journal of Law in the Built Environment (twice). He has a popular blog covering his areas of research interest.

    Luke is a regular conference speaker and has convened four themed sessions at the Royal Geographical Society’s Annual Conference (2013 & 2014 on Legal Geography and 2014 & 2017 on Bunkers).

    Luke is convenor of Sheffield Hallam University's Space & Place Group which since 2012 has drawn together academics from across the institution (and beyond) to discuss cross-disciplinary research into the nature of places and their uses. The group's recent events have ranged variously across approaches to organisational analysis of place, researching soundscapes, the politics of place and the interplay of statistics and the arts in characterisations of seaside towns.

    Specialist areas of interest

    Luke’s specialist areas of interest are:

    Legal Geography - Luke has collaborated with Professor Antonia Layard at the University of Bristol on a number of initiatives to raise the profile of Legal Geography (LG) in the UK, including: convening LG sessions at the RGS conferences in 2013 and 2014; jointly editing an LG themed issue of the International Journal of Law in the Built Environment in 2015; co-authoring a synoptic review of the LG field for Geography Compass (2015) and convening a  follow-on international workshop at the University of Bristol in 2017.

    Engagements with modern ruins - Luke’s research work investigates both those who own, and also those who enthusiastically seek to access, mundane, abandoned and/or derelict sites. Luke’s studies to date have variously examined metal theft, landowner’s perceptions of recreational trespassers, the methods and motivations of bunker hunters, the contested lives of abandoned quarries and art-led approaches to urban regeneration. In each case Luke’s focus is upon the meaning-making strategies of the actors, and how they interact with cultural tropes, local practices and site-specific materialities.

    Bunkers – Luke’s studies of engagements with modern ruins have focussed in particular upon the fate of Cold War era military bunkers, an awkward real estate class that has no obvious re-use potential or value. In a variety of studies, and using a variety of perspectives, Luke has studied how these abandoned structures have been both repurposed and given new meaning and value. In addition to his own publications on this theme, Luke has edited a published collection of 14 essays written by an international and interdisciplinary array of academic commentators looking at the fate of these remnant structures around the worldThe resulting book, In the Ruins of the Cold War Bunker: Affect, Materiality and Meaning Making (London & New York: Rowman & Littlefield International), was published in June 2017.

  • Teaching

    Department of the Natural and Built Environment

    Social Sciences and Humanities

    In addition to leading the BSc (Hons) Real Estate course, Luke also teaches built environment law to surveying and related courses, including the following:

    • Law and Economics for the Built Environment (a first year undergraduate introductory module)
    • Development Practice (a final year undergraduate module)
    • Property Law & Professional Context (a module on the RICS accredited MSc conversion programme)
    • Construction Law & Professional Context (a module on the RICS accredited MSc conversion programme)
    • Environmental Perspectives & Policy Development (a module on the MSc Environmental Management course)
  • Research

    • Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research

    Luke's research work investigates landowners' perceptions of occupiers' liability risks, and also studies the diverse attitudes and practices of various recreational access / trespass groups such as psychogeographers, urban explorers, climbers, geocachers and metal thieves. He has addressed these themes in a variety of publications and conference papers, ranging across metal theft, cemetery management, tree safety, liability for child trespassers, leisure premises safety and the motives and methods of urban explorers and abandoned military bunker hunters (bunkerologists). The diverse range of organisations to whom he has been invited to speak about his research include the Arboricultural Association, the British Mountaineering Council, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Countryside Recreation Network, the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, the Public Sector FM network, the Historic Towns Forum and Leeds Psychogeography Group.

    In recognition of his profile in this area Luke has been appointed as a collaborator on the ‘Re-placing Risk and Ruination: experimental approaches to access, design and engagement in transitional heritage sites‘ research project (2017-2019) funded by The Carnegie Trust. The project is led by Professor Hayden Lorimer (geography – University of Glasgow) supported by Professor Ed Hollis (architecture & design – University of Edinburgh) and comprises an interdisciplinary study of the re-activation of the St Peter’s Seminary modern ruins at Cardross near Glasgow. Luke's contribution will focus in particular upon the ways in which concerns about risk, liability and safety shape the project and its aspiration for finding new, innovative ways to utilise an internationally iconic ruin-space.

    Previously commissioned studies:

    Bennett, L. and Hock, K. (2013) Scree - an investigation of an industrial hillside in words and images. Sheffield: Tract Publishing.

    Bennett, L. and Crowe, L. (2008) Landowners’ liability? is perception of the risk of liability for visitors accidents a barrier to countryside access?, Project Report. Sheffield: Forestry Commission / Countryside Recreation Network.

  • Publications

  • Other activities

    As the above shows, Luke is interested in opportunities to collaborate with organisations involved in issues related to land access / access management issues.

    Luke is the departmental lead for Sheffield Hallam's candidate in the annual ‘best female student’ contest, run by the organisation The Association of Women in Property. In 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017 he guided candidates through to victory in the Yorkshire and Humber division of this national contest, beating off strong competition from contestants from other Universities across the region.

  • Postgraduate supervision

    Luke is interested in supervising PhDs in topics that connect to his own areas of research.

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