Connected Communities – Increasing the Density of Leicester City Center?

LC Banner #1 PNGThe Leicester Mercury is running a story today (midwinter day 21st December 2014) entitled “Let’s get 20,000 people living in Leicester city centre“. Councillor Patrick Kitterick chairman of Leicester City Council’s Planning Committee wants a substantial increase of 14,000 residents from the existing 6000 to live within the inner ring road of Leicester. He believes tall blocks of flats are the answer and should be clustered together in what the Mercury says he describes as a “Cheese shaped wedge” between the Humberstone Gate and Belgrave Gate, where there are already tall buildings like the BT Tower and the Equinox Tower. Getting people to live in city centres is undoubtedly a good thing for a host of reasons including environmental sustainability and economic regeneration, but only if it produces a better urban environment to live and work in. Building tall blocks of flats may be a relatively quick, administratively easy option which is financially attractive to developers but is it the best option for creating really good, attractive neighbourhoods where people can live and work? Some time ago we blogged about the innovative urban design work De Montfort University’s Architectural Studies students had carried out for the Greyfriars area of the city. The key to their designs was the integration of living, working and retail within modest size three to four story buildings which could be fitted into the many gap sites in the area and in ways that paid respect to traditional architectural style and character of the existing buildings around them. Each little infill building had a small shop like a tailor, hairdresser, min-mart or wine shop on the ground floor with one to three bedroom apartments above and these were clustered into micro-neighbourhoods, squares and lanes with the kind of defensible, overlooked space where neighbours can see whose coming and going. This degree of integration of many small developments into the grain of existing urban fabrics takes more time and effort to coordinate but can produce long-lasting, high density and genuinely integrated neighbourhoods of Connected Communities. Filling small gap sites in this way might be an alternative option worth looking at for particular parts of the city of Leicester to supplement other initiatives.

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About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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