Land-use change is a key factor in the development of the human and physical environment. Models of land-use change help understand this intricate system and can provide valuable information on possible future land-use configurations. The latter is crucial for policy makers across the globe that have to deal with such varied topics as: urbanisation, deforestation, water management, erosion control and the like. This paper provides a concise introduction to the current state of land-use models, their applications to spatial policy issues and the main research issues in this field. It thus establishes the background for the six papers that make up this special issue on modelling land-use change for spatial planning support. © Springer-Verlag 2007.