Our Director Neil Murphy joined a team of fellow academicians at a three-day Academy of Urbanism diagnostic workshop in Aireborough, a district between Leeds and Bradford based around the towns of Guiseley and Rawdon and close to Leeds-Bradford airport.
Like many areas of high housing pressure, the towns of Aireborough are grappling with the competing pressures of affordability, gentrification, constrained infrastructure and the need to accommodate a fair share of housing allocations from the local authority, Leeds City Council. The one thing all local people can agree on is that the proposed approach of nibbling multiple small housing sites out of the surrounding Green Belt is not sustainable.
A five-strong AoU team, led by AoU president David Rudlin and with Neil in support to offer a developer’s perspective, spent two days surveying the area and talking to community representatives and local experts. It became apparent that the five-yearly round of battles over piecemeal housing allocations was serving the area poorly, distracting from and masking opportunities for urban regeneration, failing to generate sufficient infrastructure investment and turning people against housing growth that most nonetheless agree is urgently needed.
The answer, the team hypothesised, is to replace nibbling with what David’s Wolfson-Prize-winning garden city plan termed a “confident bite” out of the Green Belt on which could be conceived a new neighbourhood with a critical mass and coherence to support proper infrastructure investment, add to rather than detract from local sense of place and neutralise the ‘numbers game’ for three decades. We also found that land-value-capture mechanisms, which are increasingly under discussion as means of ensuring communities benefit from accepting growth, could create a local dividend that would connect housing growth more directly to fulfilling Aireborough’s wider regeneration aims.
You can see the team’s final presentation here and read its final report here.