We are a nation traditionally obsessed with owning the space around us in the suburbs; our own garden, door step and driveway are as much a part of British life as a pint of milk and the local pub. Elsewhere in the civilised world, people aspire to live as close to the city as possible, to simplify their lives and wipe-out the commute. Whilst we hang on to the notion of sending our children off for the gentle walk to school through leafy avenues, the growing reality of parental choice for schooling means that the school run has become a bit of a rally dictated by yellow zig-zags and entire forecourts worth of shiny vehicles. (photos: Google)
There is another way, however.
In Europe and further afield, housing, workplaces and schools exist side by side and residents, workers and school-children comfortably and easily share the many city centre public spaces, pocket parks and playgrounds which bring vitality and safety to the urban environment.
Most people’s routines in the UK look something like this; quick breakfast, sit in traffic for half an hour listening to inane radio, park, walk into the office, escape at lunchtime, head back to the office, more of the same, back to the car, even more time sitting in traffic before pulling up at home. (photo: Google)
Imagine taking the traffic off both ends of the day, enjoying a bit of light exercise both ways to work and back and allowing work and home life to gently fuse together, punctuated by all that the city centre has to offer. No more dashing back into town for an event, no need to plan weeks ahead for the theatre, fresh produce on your doorstep at Leeds market and the ability to properly enjoy the city hubbub at your own pace. (photos: Google and Barnaby Aldrick)
Best time to do it?
The city centre has tended to attract the under thirties and it is essential that we are able to continue to offer our economic engine room, the so-called key workers, easy access to a range of rented accommodation in the very heart of the city. Economic growth is closely linked to the availability of good housing stock and we must ensure that we do all we can to deliver.
Whilst city living has been seen as a stepping stone to suburban life, we are seeing significant change in this respect; the delivery of significant amenity in the city centre is encouraging people to stay for longer and ultimately, to return to the city once the suburban experience has lost its sheen. In more mature city centres such as Edinburgh, London and Oxford, people aspire to stay central for as long as possible because they want to enjoy the convenience and vibrancy which comes about as a consequence of the urban lifestyle. (photo: Barnaby Aldrick)
So, for new arrivals in the city, young families and so-called downsizers, for whom size actually isn’t everything, Leeds city centre gets more and more attractive. We have our first city centre school for twenty years and we are the only city outside London with a resident theatre, opera and ballet. (photo: Google)