Architect Ric Blenkharn on Yorkshire's best city living developments and why we need more like them

Some 15 years ago I wrote an article entitled City Families, describing the need to create homes for families in city centres. Such families require the basics of food, clothing, education, health and recreation facilities, but it is all too evident that such facilities are lacking in the heart of many cities.In searching for a British model, I cited Edinburgh as a city virtually unrivalled in the UK.

It incorporates places to live, work and play, all within close proximity. As such a vibrant, healthy culture is formed.

Looking at the housing types in Edinburgh, these tend to be tenement blocks laid out in formal terraces, set around wide streets, public squares and city centre parks.

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This makes the whole, an attractive place to live. To my mind this is reason why people of all ages choose to live in such places. It is the place itself, rather than the nature or form of the house type, which acts as a living magnet.

Ric BlenkharnRic Blenkharn
Ric Blenkharn

The answer lies in a cohesive, clear and planned strategy, to provide both facilities and public spaces around which housing can be provided. If, like Edinburgh, there are generous public parks, the demand for extensive private gardens is reduced. With education, health and leisure facilities in easy striking distance, the demands for private transport are reduced.

I was delighted therefore to recently visit the award winning Citu Development in Leeds named The Climate Innovation District and sited on the banks of the River Aire.

It made me feel as though I had arrived in the centre of Copenhagen-such was the European feel of the place.

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It has strong linear forms of terraced housing, each home with a small private space, but set in a tranquil car free environment where the feel of community felt strong.

We spent some hours wandering around and looking inside properties and were truly impressed to see the vision of city families coming to fruition.

The likes of Citu, working in Leeds and Sheffield, and Sky House in South Yorkshire are bringing exciting new housing developments to the fore.

The challenges of redeveloping city brownfield sites are not for the faint hearted, but the results are truly inspirational.

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Both developers are keenly design led and have a passion for good design that has an impact on our quality of life.

The developments that have been completed have a strong sense of identity and place, unlike many piecemeal housing developments which proliferate.

Such bold designs should act as positive catalysts for change and I hope that they will as they should be the norm and should provide for all those in housing need.

There is nothing new in these observations. For the last hundred years, differing forms of cities have been discussed at length-yet they all largely conclude, that a mix of living, working and playing in the same vicinity is the model to embrace.

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We face a challenging future as natural resources deplete and the quest for renewable energy gathers momentum. As part of this, the design of the homes in our cities is vital for the future well-being of society.

Both Citu and Sky House have shown a new way of thinking. I encourage everyone to see first-hand what can be achieved through tenacious and innovative design.