Population growth, economic development, and rural migration to urban areas have caused rapid expansion of urban centres in Ghana. One reason is that spatial planning and in particular urban planning face different social, economic and political challenges which hinder a structured and planned urban development, therefore causing urban sprawl. We hypothesise that different peri-urban patterns are driven by geographical, historical, cultural and economic discrepancies between southern and northern Ghana, and reflect the effectiveness of land use planning instruments. We tested our hypothesis by comparing patterns of urban development in two case study regions: Takoradi in southern Ghana and Bolgatanga in northern Ghana, representing an economically vibrant and a non-vibrant region, respectively. This paper provides new insights for the study sites based on a mixed-method approach. We applied an interdisciplinary approach combining expert interviews, a literature review, and a bi-temporal change analysis based on remote sensing/geo-information systems. We assigned confidence levels of the findings from the respective methods based on ... mehrtheir plausibility and sensitivity. Expert opinion indicated that land use planning fails due to the lack of implementation of legal regulations, to the customary land tenure and lack of participation of local citizens in the planning process. The remote sensing analysis revealed that urban development was stronger in Takoradi (7.1% increase between 2007 and 2013) than in Bolgatanga (1.1% increase between 2007 and 2013). Urban development patterns differ with a dominance of small-scale scattered settlement units (SUs) in Bolgatanga and a mixture of small- and large-scale SUs in Takoradi. Besides population growth, markets and industry are identified as major drivers of urban development in the Takoradi area (large SUs) and customary land tenure in the Bolgatanga area (small SUs).