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Is Leeds (UK) developing in a sustainable fashion???

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Hi city lovers, city thinkers, city dreamers.....

Leeds, W.Yorks, England, has (as has been previously discussed on the forum), experienced in recent years rapid and exciting levels of economically fuelled new-build development. This is especially true in a (city centre) regenerational context with prominent, well designed architecture involved in new residential, office, commercial and mixed use developments completed or currently under construction (e.g.s include the K2 residential tower, Clarence Dock mixed use development and the Light, a commercial and leisure development). On aesthetic grounds alone, the drive to improve the urban environment in Leeds appears to be paying dividends; the city is becoming more attractive. It could be argued too that the creation and enhancement of social spaces (such as the recently remodelled City Square and Millennium Square) is another attractive feature of the development in Leeds. It seems that the council is endeavouring to achieve this and in fact, by providing/ encouraging residential new-build (and indeed conversions of vacant building stock) aims to see a permanent residential population in the city centre increase. This could bring social, economic and environmental benefits in terms of; a closer and safer degree of urban community cohesiveness, increased leisure and retail opportunities for new inner city dwelling markets (and hence the growth and demand for new enterprise), and a better planned, less car reliant and well maintained urban environment.

This could equate to a reversal of post-industrial urban decline/decay (experienced in Leeds, as well as many other cities e.g. Manchester), which resulted in widespread de-population to suburbia, bringing with it greenfield destruction and increased motorised transport dependence and the associated growth in congestion problems. The planned Leeds Supertram (set to go online by 2007) could alleviate these problems substantially in conjunction with the less long-distance travel requirements of a more centralised workforce.

What I am interested in, is evaluating is the extent to which the new and proposed developments in Leeds demonstrate progression towards sustainability. Is there evidence of 'Sustainable Development' occurring here? With respect to the widely accepted Brundtland definition of this concept, that is, "Development which meets our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own" (WCED, 1987) are needs of all being considered; both intra and inter-generational? Or the needs within our generation (in terms of providing equal opportunities to all social groups not just the bourgeois elite!) and the needs of our grandchildren (although this is obviously hard to foresee). And what of the needs of the natural environment; to what extent could it be held that the urban area of Leeds is reducing its damaging impact as a resource hungry city?

I am very interested in any views members of the forum may have...

Do the mixed use developments, urban design and infrastructure changes in central Leeds...
- Encourage a cross section of society to return to the city centre (i.e. by making provisions for low income groups)?
- Employ any eco efficient technologies (e.g. photovoltaic panels), materials (e.g. recycled steel or wood from sustainable forests) or methods of manufacture (e.g. off-site pre-fabrication.)?
- Suggest the possible application of very high density residences (e.g. 'Microflats') or sustainable urban villages (e.g. akin to BedZed, Sutton, London)?
- Reduce dependence significantly on cars?
- Reduce the needs for further peripheral greenbelt utilisation?
- Provide the opportunities to further develop the city's green urban environments (e.g. squares and gardens)?

What barriers oppose these opportunities and are they realistic? Do you think its likely to occur and what are your personal aspirations or visions for the future development of the city of Leeds?

I very much welcome all opinions on this issue.
Speak soon,
Alexis.
 
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