November 21: Harehills, the Leeds suburb with fantastic architecture which has become downright ugly

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From: Peter Turner, Kings Road, Harrogate.

AS a resident of Harrogate, I have had to make the journey several times to St James’s Hospital in Leeds. The most convenient way for me to do this is by taking the ring road east from the A61 up through the park at Roundhay and on to Harehills. For the most part this is a pleasant journey and the park at Roundhay adds to the occasion.

As you’ve already guessed there is a big ‘but’ coming which occurs on entering Harehills which must have been a very pleasant suburb of Leeds at one time. It seems to me the council have not bothered to implement any planning control particularly with regard to shops and businesses along the busy road. Because of this, fantastic vernacular architecture has been hidden, despoiled and defaced by incredibly poor and inappropriate signage which is visual pollution on a grotesque scale.

I think Leeds City Council should hang its head in shame in allowing such a situation to develop. It’s true Harehills is not that wealthy and is populated with people from many different cultures who may not be aware of Britain’s architectural heritage. For that reason it is up to the council to take a lead and encourage a better approach in the way businesses present themselves. So far the council has failed miserably. Furthermore, the roads act as a barrier to segregate one side of the street with the other, and they have been planned in a complicated and convoluted manner with an excess of ugly railings, barriers and other street furniture rendering the whole area ugly and mean. As the original architecture is still largely intact, the buildings could be enhanced by radical rethinking how businesses present themselves. This could be done by means of financial incentives such as business rate rebates to owners who improve their business and courses to educate owners on how they could achieve this.

With regard to the roads, there is only one solution and that is to strip the entire area of its ugliness by ripping out most of the street furniture and creating green spaces with the roads around and by giving priority to pedestrians. Pie in the sky, I don’t think so since this is common place on the continent with great success in terms of regeneration which hasn’t cost the earth.

This problem is not peculiar to Leeds. However, if the North is truly to become a modern ‘powerhouse’ to compete with London, some effort is required to improve the environment in such areas. If I were a business owner in these inner city areas, I would be asking myself for what do I pay my business rates?