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Street Life: Leeds (United Kingdom)
Leeds city centre urban design strategy (CCUDS)
Municipality of Leeds
The strategy is the result of a programme of collaboration over 3 years. This project was led by the Department of Planning and Environment of Leeds City Council, and supported by a range of partners. The published strategy, launched in September 2000, provides an analysis-based document which includes strategic and detailed design work and is used to encourage distinctive design proposals.
Leeds is the UK's second largest City outside London, with a population of 700,000. It is at the heart of the conurbation of West Yorkshire, at the centre of the Yorkshire and Humber region. Its traditional economic base of engineering, manufacturing and textiles has diversified through the development of major service industries. In recent years, Leeds has become established as a leading centre for financial and legal services and has confirmed its role as the major economic force of the wider region. The City has two Universities and a large number of Further Educational Institutions. It is a centre for specialism in medicine and has the largest National Health Service Hospital Trust in the UK. The City has a rich cultural tradition across a broad spectrum of arts. It also has a distinguished heritage of civic and commercial buildings from the Victorian period, which is now being enriched by examples of good contemporary architecture. Leeds is a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan City, with a population reflecting diverse ethnic backgrounds. In recent years, the City Centre has undergone a significant renaissance, expressed in unprecedented investment in new buildings and activities, and is recognised as one of the most prominent centres in the country combining commercial, retail and leisure opportunities. The City Centre exemplifies the approach to urban renaissance advocated by the UK Urban Task Force, with investment in new infrastructure, quality public spaces and streets, and mixed land uses, including new residential, supporting diversity of activity according to good urban design principles.
The area of the City Centre (c 500ha.) stretches some 3km east-west and north-south and includes a varied cityscape from a prestigious retail core to decaying under-used riverside spaces at its margins. The CCUDS strategic analysis considers City Centre-wide issues and develops the "Quarters Approach" introduced in our development plan. It aims to express and enhance the urban design characteristics and local distinctiveness of the centre.
Leeds city centre urban design strategy
CCUDS provides a working tool which has been used progressively in the course of the development of the project to inform and guide decisions on development schemes and proposals for environmental improvements. The built environment is an expression of past, present and future and can represent aspects of local distinctiveness and cultural identity and CCUDS provides a picture of the urban design attributes of Leeds City Centre at the start of the new Millennium. The City Centre is experiencing continuous economic change. CCUDS considers the effects of the evolving development needs on streets, spaces and buildings. It also examines the quality of the existing cityscape in order to promote a sustainable approach to future development. An essential role of the strategy is to provide a framework for managing change. Its implementation is through a range of measures and initiatives which can be summarised as follows:
• Promotion of urban design:
• exhibitions, workshops, seminars, conferences, leaflets, annual award schemes, such as the Leeds Architectural Awards and the Leeds Lighting Design Awards
• Management of change:
• control of development and influence on design.
• Investment in schemes and partnerships:
• grant initiatives, capital investment in infrastructure, including transport and other major capital projects.
CCUDS has direct relevance to the theme of Street life: new designs for public spaces: through its recognition of the importance of spaces to the life and movement of the City, and the promotion of investment in the quality and effective management of spaces to enhance the setting and inter-relationship of buildings. In addition, however, the project has reference to the other themes of the Biennial. In promoting and celebrating local distinctiveness, it respects cultural heritage. In pursuing a quality of public environment to support a variety of activity, it encourages the expression of cultural identities. In seeking to define individual design requirements for local circumstances, it counters the global forces of corporate investment which direct much development activity. Whilst it contains reference to external examples of urban design, its principal focus is on examples drawn from Leeds itself, in order to reinforce local character and identity.
CCUDS document was published in Urban Design Week, in September 2000, as the culmination of a 3 year programme of preparation. Leeds City Council's Department of Planning and Environment initiated the project and provided the project leadership and co-ordination. Contributions were made throughout by a number of partners, as follows: Other departments of the City Council, Urban Design Alliance (UDAL) Yorkshire Region, Leeds Architecture and Design Initiative (a partnership group including public and private sector design practitioners, public arts, universities, developer representatives, chaired by the City Council Executive Member for Development and Sustainability), Leeds Metropolitan University, School of the Built Environment, Leeds Civic Trust, members of the general public, responding to public exhibitions throughout the 3 years.
The CCUDS process was analysis-based and involved 3 distinct stages:
• City Centre wide, overview.
• Detailed study of specific areas.
The project incorporated an approach reflecting the themes of form, movement, space and use. These are developed through detailed study of nine areas based on the identified Quarters of the City Centre and through specific case studies of selected sites, buildings and features. Through its partnership approach and participatory techniques the project has gained considerable support. Indeed a broad local consensus in support of the strategy was already in place at the time of its publication and launch.
The strategy has been produced using an electronic map system, through which the management and presentation of different layers of data is facilitated. Careful use of colour and icon style enables the composite presentation of a wide range of issues on an analytical map which is dense with overlaid information yet easily readable. CCUDS is to be regarded as a stage in a continuing process rather than a finite end in itself. The strategy is intended to be live, adaptable, and capable of further development through the experience of local partners. Intended future developments include virtual reality, modeling, strategies for tall buildings, riverside and trees, proposals for linkages to areas outside the City Centre, and periodic reviews of maps.
Leeds City Centre is the focus for an unprecedented level of development activity which indicates the current success of the local economy. Investment in infrastructure continues to be a main feature of future proposals. Leeds City Railway station is currently undergoing major refurbishment under a programme of £160 million, to increase its operational capacity and improve its facilities. Also, Government approval has been secured for the development of "Supertram", a light rapid transit system at a cost approaching £0.5 billion, as a key element of an integrated transport system for the future of the City. In raising awareness of urban design principles, CCUDS can make a key contribution to the pursuit of high quality outcomes for all of this activity, so as to maximise their value in reinforcing the attractiveness of Leeds for future generations.
The City Council shares a joint Vision for Leeds with a wide range of partner organisations based in the City and its surrounding region. The mission of the Council is to bring the benefit of a prosperous, vibrant and attractive City to all the people of Leeds. Its central challenge is to harness the maximum access for local people to the economic, social and cultural benefits which can flow from the major investment referred to above. This is particularly true for disadvantaged sections of the local community who have not previously shared in the benefits of local economic success. In promoting access, diversity and choice through its influence on urban design, CCUDS forms part of the overall framework of local policy initiatives and tools which seek to promote sustainability in the future development of the City. Although it is at an early stage, there is already some evidence that the strategy is effective in encouraging an appropriate design-orientated approach to development. Also it has been commended for its contribution to local knowledge and its value as a learning tool for students of urban design and has been entered for the Royal Town Planning Institute's 2001 Awards for planning achievements.
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The Journal of Urbanism