There is currently an emerging discussion about the shifting frontiers of research in the field of urban and regional planning. This special section focuses on the new spatial planning paradigm from a theoretical and methodological development perspective. The six papers published in this special section contribute to and extend the spatial planning literature, specifically in relation to land use, ecology and urban geography. The main themes addressed by the papers are as follows: 1) advancing the theoretical development of the concept of new ruralism and its application as a spatial planning principle for sustainable development in rural areas of Korea; 2) the significance of spatial adaptation and the resilience of healthcare systems in responding to the unprecedented hazards and health risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in Abu Dhabi City, in the United Arab Emirates; 3) transit-oriented development (TOD) and its spatial associations with the land use of low-density areas in the Keihanshin conurbation in Japan; 4) estimating the land surface temperature to enhance understanding of changes in the landscape for residents of the Kolkata Metropolitan area in India, using a radiative transfer equation algorithm; 5) how the ecological knowledge of local residents in Shiheung City in Korea, accessed via a spatial text mining approach, can be used to inform policy making; 6) applying a Q methodology to investigate individuals’ subjective views and perceptions of nature/natural features when visiting urban parks in Seoul, Korea. Bringing different types of theoretical and methodological perspectives together, this editorial concludes with a summary, critical discussion and suggestions for future research with regard to the new spatial planning paradigm.