Why we need urban development heretics

When shopping centre developer Hammerson walked away from Sheffield’s much-vaunted New Retail Quarter last year, it could have been a blessing in disguise. Here was an opportunity to radically rethink the ‘mall without walls’ template for city centre regeneration. Sheffield City Council’s chief executive, John Mothersole, has been quoted as saying that the next iteration of the […]

New book tells the story of Yorkshire’s food revolution

The story of the Incredible Edible movement that begun in Todmorden and has now spread across the world is to be told in a new book by Urban Pollinators writer Joanna Dobson. What began with ‘propaganda planting’ in cemeteries and on station platforms in a former mill town has now become a global network of […]

The people-centred city

We’ve recently visited Sri Lanka as a keynote speaker the University of Moratuwa’s conference on Cities, People and Places. In a country that is seeking to get to grips with reconciliation and reconstruction after a brutal conflict, creating cities that work for people is a key priority. The text and slides of the keynote have […]

Can Belfast become a city fit for the future?

A few minutes after you leave Belfast City Airport to head into the city centre, a row of fluttering purple flags greets you. They signal that the estate behind the fence is the territory of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Seven months ago they weren’t there. It’s a visible sign of the fragility of Belfast’s recovery […]

Critical creativity and the future of mainstreets

Seeing a new city is always a good way of reflecting on your home town. You look at what’s done differently and wonder why nobody thought of that back home; your eyes are more open to the way people use space and interact with each other. Meeting new people has the same effect. You look […]

The legacy of Alderman Graves, and lessons for regeneration

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a lecture at Sheffield University’s Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences. The talk focused on people-centred approaches to regeneration, and how they could be encouraged in today’s policy context. The full text of the talk and the accompanying slides are here. I also wrote a […]

How to create community assets

  Since 1992, several hundred homes in a corner of west London have been the standard-bearers of a new form of community control. Previously owned by Westminster Council, they were transferred to a resident-controlled housing association, Walterton and Elgin Community Homes, under the 1988 ‘tenants’ choice’ legislation. Walterton and Elgin Community Homes (WECH) arose from […]

Why local works: the story of Giroscope

On the front page of Giroscope’s website is a three point pledge to its tenants. It sounds like the sort of thing some big, commercially minded landlords would do, but the content of this small Hull charity’s promise is rather different: • So long as the conditions of the tenancy are met, you have the right […]

HMV’s travails show the need for citizens to reclaim town and city space

My thoughts on the demise of high street photographic chain Jessops and the likely closure of HMV have been featured in the Guardian’s Northerner blog. The problem is not simply that a particular business model has become obsolete, I argued. ‘What’s broken is our own ability as citizens to share in the ownership, management and […]

At the forefront of a new debate

Our involvement in events over the recent months has demonstrated a growing interest in ideas of people-centred placemaking, and especially in the future of high streets and town centres. Julian Dobson has been a keynote speaker at a range of events, including the State of the City debate in Belfast in October 2012, and the […]