Yorkshire is a large county and RTPI region, encompassing sizeable cities in Leeds, Bradford, Hull and Sheffield; exceptional heritage assets, including at York; and two National Parks in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
The contrast between metropolitan and deep rural was plainly demonstrated on my recent visit, one day in the Moors and another in Bradford and Leeds.
What is not so often appreciated is the extent to which city and country co-exist within the same districts: Bradford’s boundaries contain some 5,000 listed buildings, the World Heritage site at Saltaire, and the rural attractions of Ilkley Moor and nearby small towns. There is a proud Victorian heritage in the city centre with fine buildings and thriving streets, but also a fair share of 1960’s brutalism and some key planning challenges in disuse and areas of dereliction.
Ian Tant (centre) With Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bob Wolfe and Philipp Tschavoll-Selenko (RTPI Yorkshire), Julian Jackson and colleagues of Bradford MBC.
The Council has a powerful vision of the economic resurgence, increased city living and enhanced public realm that great place-making can bring about. Selected as one of England’s five Future Places by RIBA, RTPI and partners, Bradford is benefitting from a clear drive from council leaders and officers to create new homes and workplaces and repurpose heritage assets for its young population.
A new market place and park is close to commencement, which will help to create a more compact retail area and release the 1960s market site for new housing.
By taking the lead in this important regeneration project, the Council aims to inspire confidence in the private sector and building owners to ensure a wave of new residential conversions and an enhanced leisure and night-time economy in its “city village”. High quality design is an essential component of the plans and a new design guide is in preparation to support the regeneration activity.
But Bradford faces a key challenge in competing for investment. It lies on culs-de-sac of railway lines with relatively poor linkage and poor quality ‘gateways’ into the city centre from the Interchange station particularly.
This is why HS2 and the planned Northern Powerhouse rail link are so vital. The latter has the potential to place Bradford squarely on the Leeds and Manchester axis, with journey times to each reduced to 7 and 13 minutes respectively. It would be transformational for Bradford.
As planners, we should offer every support to delivering this important part of the Northern Powerhouse project, ensuring this fine city can work to its full potential in boosting the economy of the north.
Leeds exudes confidence and purpose. Seeing it through the eyes of Young Planner James Forrest and his three colleagues was a real delight. They clearly love their city for its excitement, contrasts and opportunity.
Front-line investments continue with the new Channel 4 building under construction close to the station and preparation underway for the future High Speed 2 arrival point, south of the station.
Leeds Corn Market
The retail core remains vibrant and ever-busy. There’s a clear line of inheritance between the Victorian in the Corn Market, Kirkgate Market (home of the original Marks & Spencer stall)and Victoria Quarter arcade, and the new and enhanced arcades of Victoria Gate and the Trinity shopping centre.
Not all schemes have paid off yet - there was much debate about the South of York Road development and whether it is sufficiently linked with the centre - but new development continues apace.
North York Moors
All of which was seemingly a world away from the North York Moors and its quiet beauty. And yet, the National Park is a living and working environment with a history of man-made changes to the landscape.
In Rosedale I saw the archaeological heritage of its Victorian past as a major centre for iron mining and smelting. The charm of today’s landscape contrasts markedly with what must have been a hive of activity in the 19th century, producing at one time 30% of the world’s iron.
Yet industry and mining remain contemporary components of the Park. A new mine is well-advanced in construction at Sneatonthorpe, near Whitby, for the extraction of polyhalite (a fertiliser source).
Planning has made a major contribution to ensuring that the environmental impacts are carefully mitigated. The winding gear is contained in a low rise building which will be hidden in the landscape. while the mined material will be transported some 20 kilometres by a 250 metre-deep tunnel to Teesside for processing and export. With additional contributions to off-site mitigation schemes, the scheme is setting a benchmark for sustainability in mining operations.
Yorkshire demonstrates clearly that planning remains a powerful, professional force in town and country.
Ian Tant is President of the RTPI.