Urban planning policies



In the West, Twentieth Century urban planning policies and rapid urbanisation; characterised by single use zoning; low density land use and car dependent communities; have often separated people from traditional community interaction. For many this individualistic existence can be perceived as dystopia.

What if people were given the opportunity to respond to such dystopia assisted by the further development of cooperative community model that facilitated sustainable living and supportive mutual respect? What if an alternative means to live was promoted helped by the provision of flexible and supportive physical mixed use environment which was both accessible and beneficial to the whole community? It is arguable that true sustainability relates not only to the natural environment but also to the built environment and it has key economic and social community dimensions

Brief Outline of User Requirements:

Cohousing communities provide a developing physical, economic and social model to achieve such objectives outlined above. They are typically composed of mixed use flexible buildings containing private living space, economic activity and extensive common areas, which are owned, managed and maintained by the residents, providing an affordable, sustainable and community focused lifestyle.

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Facilities should include a range of communal facilities proportionate in size to the development including a large kitchen and dining room area, a laundry, offices and workshops with broadband access and a range of leisure facilities Communal outdoor spaces should provide attractive areas for social interaction. The buildings should be flexible and adaptive and encourage supportive cooperative behavior.

The proposed buildings should seek to take maximum benefit from their town centre location and seek to achieve high environmental standards against the sustainability code. Close spatial relationship between work and residence and interaction economically with the neighbourhood and visitors to the city centre should be encouraged.

This self-generative environment will enhance a socio-economic sustainability that can successfully adapt to the changing needs of the resident and wider community.

Proposed Location:

Fish Street is located in Leeds City Centre. It connects Kirkgate, King Edwards Street and Vicar Lane providing access to the boutique retail outlets in the Victorian Quarter of the City, The City Markets and Lower Briggate, all of which are major tourist attractions.



Some sociologists such as Georg SimmelandFerdinand Tönnies,have posed the theory that the anonymity of the city leads to a feeling of alienation (Hess, A, 2001) (Lucaccini, G, 2009). Twentieth century urban planning policies and rapid urbanisation; characterised by single use zoning; low density land use; large corporate business and car dependent communities; have served to separate people from traditional community interaction. For many this individualistic existence can be perceived as a dystopia. Furthermore, with 75 per cent of the 10 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2050 predicted to reside in urban centers this is a global issue that needs to be addressed (Ripplinger, S, 2009).

The future shaping and wellbeing of cities requires the promotion and implementation of new models of flexible mixed use and adaptive buildings responding to and promoting cooperative, supportive and sustainable communities.


Scattered and isolated communities are no more apparent than in Leeds (Nuttgens, P, 1979). Over the course of the last century city residents have been "driven from" the City Centre and out into the suburbs leaving some urban areas neglected, unsafe and underused (Nuttgens, P, 1979) especially during times of economic decline such as that precipitated by the credit crunch.

Although £1.8 billion of major property development has been undertaken in Leeds over the last 10 years, this part of the City remains detached and aloof, and many city dwellers still face exclusion or separation from community support. Maxwell Hutchinson's assertion that Leeds is 'building the high rise slums of tomorrow ...they're forgetting to build communities" would appear particularly accurate, despite Leeds City Planning Policy that sets out to tackle social exclusion and foster better communities (BBC Inside Out - Leeds - Changing for the Better?) (Leeds City Council 2007, Sustainable Development in Leeds).


The Fish Street area is deep within the commercially driven retail heart of Leeds City Centre. The site, having once accommodated thriving mixed use markets in the 19th Century, is now an unattractive backland space which for big brand retail outlets, is unappealing and limited in size and economic potential.

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However it is the ideal place to shape and develop a sustainable urban community which is accessible for all, inclusive and community focused.



The reuse and repositioning of obsolete or underutilised buildings and sites is essential to revitalising Leeds City Centre and renewing blighted neighbourhoods and replacing them with more prosperous communities. Six such areas were analysed to identify the best opportunities to shape a sustainable urban community within Leeds City Centre and promote opportunity for investment, business enterprise and social interaction. The sites were analysed in terms of size, transport links, proximity to community essential amenities, foot fall, gathering and retreating, sense of entry and arrival, parking and orientation.


The most suitable location was the Fish Street Area. This location benefits from excellent footfall, permeability and connectivity (See Right). It lies directly between the two main East-West pedestrian routes across the City Centre (Kirkgate and King Edwards Street) as well as the main North-South pedestrian and vehicular routes (Briggate and Vicar Lane).

The Fish Street area is located in close proximity to the Victorian Boutique Retail Outlets, the City Markets and Briggate, all of which are major tourist attractions. Community essential amenities are plentiful as are transport facilities with major bus routes on Vicar Lane and Leeds Railway Station is a 5 minute walk away.


The Fish Street area has a 'T' alignment in terms of the street and building form. The site consists of three clusters of unattractive and under-utilised buildings including two storage facilities and two run down B grade commercial buildings one of which is advertised for redevelopment. The Fish Street area is generally used as a thoroughfare and a hair salon and two small cafes allow for some very limited community interaction. The area underperforms environmentally, socially and economically and presents a substantial opportunity for regeneration

The sites total approximately 1030 sq m and have a street frontage of 100 m. A considerable proportion of the sites have a single frontage. There is a slight fall of approximately 700mm from West to East across the site over a distance of 41 metres (1:59) and from North to South it is relatively level.

Assembly of the site may require compulsory purchase by the Local Authority under wellbeing powers.


Immediate and distant thresholds and views of the site have been investigated. The results are shown over the following pages. The Fish Street area is surrounded by a range of architectural building styles and materials (See Conservation: Limitations and Opportunities). However the red brick and ornate Victorian facades on King Edwards Street provide the best example of architectural consistency and are typical of the Victorian listed buildings in this area of Leeds. Care must be taken to respect the language and expression of these buildings especially in terms of colour, materials and where practicable scale and height in any redevelopment. Much of the site is however tucked away in its own context, providing some flexibility.



Fish Street lies adjacent to Briggate and Kirkgate, two of the oldest streets in Leeds dating back to 1207. The presence of former cellars, unconsolidated ground and foundations or structural relationships with adjoining buildings will be examined. The stability of adjoining buildings and any party wall issues will need to be assessed.

Any risks associated with former coal mining will be examined. Middle and Lower Coal Measures are present across central Leeds. These deposits comprise a thick sequence of alternating bands of clays, shales, sandstone, mudstone and coal (LCC, 2001, Contaminated Land).


The major surface watercourse within the Leeds area is the River Aire and Leeds Liverpool Canal. The Fish Street area is not within flood risk zones currently identified (LCC, 2007, Sustainable Drainage in Leeds)


Given the city centre location, the air quality and the noise and light pollution levels will be assessed and mitigation taken where necessary to meet environmental standards. Vicar Lane is a major vehicular route therefore road safety and air pollution must be considered. The location and availability of gas, electricity and broadband services and foul and surface water drains must also be determined through detailed surveys and consultation.



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In Leeds rainfall averages 600mm annually (metoffice.gov.uk). The predominant wind is from the South West with an average speed of 10 knots (windfinder.com). Though the project location is surrounded by large and frequent obstructions, funneling at ground level along Fish street, Kirkgate and King Edwards Street should be considered. The Fish Street area is approximately 36m above sea level. Air temperature averages 11°C annually and a snow load of 0.6kn/m sq should be accommodated for in the design. Within the area a microclimate will moderate extremes.


At street level some overshadowing occurs, though the upper levels of the proposed development should be relatively open to sunlight subject to some flexibility in the heights relative to adjoining buildings. However, given the narrowness of the highways through the site and the single aspect of much of the sites, effective penetration of natural light into the buildings will be a major consideration. Any potential rights of light issues will be examined and negotiated. The Fish Street Area slopes gently Eastward and maximum environmental advantage will be taken of this aspect by the height and design of the new buildings.



The Fish Street area is located in conservation area 45A of Leeds City Centre. Numerous listed buildings line King Edwards Street and Vicar Lane. Appropriate consent will be necessary to enable demolition of the buildings in the scheme and the development proposals. Conservation and urban design policies are included in the Local Development Frame Work (LDF) and need to be taken into account.


Facade treatment; ratio of solid to void and detailing of facades should be designed to complement traditional proportioning, and materials should complement the existing range of brick and stone in terms of reflectivity, colour and texture. Rooflines should be staggered or otherwise broken to take account of changes in level and roofs should be pitched and punctuated by features such as dormers, chimneys or turrets where appropriate.


Site accommodation for the contractor and site cabins, cranes and materials is limited and must be resolved.

The minimum provision of lifts can be met through incorporation of walkways in the sky between the separate sites.

As some of the buildings are single aspect they will back onto blank party walls of adjoining properties and so there will be issues of absence of light and views.Ventilation ducts that run horizontally to the roof and the use of solar chimneys must be considered.


There are also rights to light, rights of way and covenants and restrictive covenants that must be investigated. Ownership factors such as Highways Services way leaves and the Party Wall Act will affect the legalities of the development. Access for refuse, emergency services and deliveries must be catered for in the design.

BRIEF 1500 1527


An innovative iconic inner city group of buildings is required to demonstrate a new form of regeneration post credit crunch. Urban development that is more sustainable, affordable and community focused will reshape Leeds City Centre (LCC, Leeds Sustainable Strategy, 2009).

The development must be an attractive investment proposition for the tenant whom is able to live and work within a likeminded empathetic community that shares the benefits of shared resources and knowledge, in an environmentally friendly, non alienating environment.

BUSINESS ENTERPRISE Mixed use driven out of the older back streets of Leeds, by big commercial business on Briggate and the Headrow etc. The Fish Street area is unattractive to big commercial retailers/business due to complexities of the site. Providing a community model which makes these spaces available to smaller business.

COMMUNITY Research has shown that 65% of people have nobody with whom they can co-operate in their daily lives, 84% do not have close relationships with their neighbours and one in three people live alone (2006, National Lifestyle Preferences). Crime, antisocial behaviour, dirty streets, neglected open spaces, lighting and lack of facilities for young people have also been highlighted as the most concerning of social issues (2008, New Economics Foundation). The development must address the breakdown of community in urban centres.


The membership and outreach policy will be democratic, open and inclusive and will seek to develop close connections with the surrounding community. A process of recruiting founder members will take place as part of the design process to ensure their involvement in the design of the scheme. The development must be for a mixed-income, multigenerational demographic to ensure financial and community sustainability.


The development will create a beautiful living, working environment which will maximise green spaces, natural energy resources and areas for social interaction, maximising the potential of the upper floors and aspect of the separate building sites and the narrow urban space between the buildings.

As a pilot scheme it will need to have good quality materials, finishes and fittings that reflect the statement being made and that are durable minimising future maintenance costs. Different levels of finish will be considered as appropriate especially in the workshop areas and retail areas.


The creation of inter-junctions between interior/exterior and public/private space on a variety of scales accommodates various residential activities and will facilitate spontaneous social interactions.


A communal-house will be at heart of the community and will include kitchen and dining space, a TV room, a crèche and a multi-use room and will be a general use gathering space for the community. The entrance area must be both enticing and sheltered and should lead to or incorporate mail and coat functions. The communal house will have direct access to the roof terrace which will provide a real microclimate for the building, providing opportunities for food production, outdoor dining and recreational activities and a space to retreat.

The kitchen must easily access innovative recycling and refuse facilities and be acoustically insulated and ventilated. Tables and equipment should be easily set up and removed and there must be two general use toilets.

The crèche must be accessible by the public to enable appropriate income generation and be visually connected to the kitchen. There will be separate spaces for different age groups such as babies, toddlers and teenagers. Storage, toilet and changing facilities, common house security (due to public access) and exterior play space are important considerations.

Guest facilities should flank the communal house and have access to its facilities whilst being separated from the workshop and retail core of the development.


The cooperative will include a minimum of 6060 residential units to ensure the schemes economic viability. All residential units will meet "Lifetime Homes", Homes & Community Agency standards in terms of size and quality and seek to achieve Sustainable Code level 4.

The buildings will house at least 138 people and 10 temporary paying guests in shared bedrooms and flats. The guest bedrooms and flats will be able to adapt and merge into a 3 bed dwelling or 5 bed dormitory. There should be at least 7 studios and 15 one bed and 20 two bed flats, half of which have an adjoining workshop. Living environments should be capable of being fully integrated with work and public spaces. All dwellings will have the ability to adapt and merge and subdivide to ensure flexibility for a changing demographic and community needs. The scheme will include at least 5 two bed flats which will have the capacity to merge with one bed flats to provide three bed dwellings.

Lift facilities will be provided and the buildings will be connected at strategic levels.

All units must easily access laundry, recycling and refuse services and communal accommodation. They will be located on elevated stories to provide a safe and audible separation from the street.


At least 24 workshops will cater for those residents who choose not to have an adjoining workshop to their property. Workshop space may be used for stone, wood and metal work and therefore must be acoustically insulated and ventilated. Natural lighting should be incorporated where possible. Ceiling heights will be higher at ground floor level than standard residential room heights and for at least 50% of the workshop units overall.



Trading space and small live/ work units allow residents to remain local for their work and shopping. Trading/retail court/units. Large spaces for e.g. architects, department store kind of space, small stall like space...


The buildings should include a cellar and also be capable of vertical extension in the future.

A bike park and an innovative recycling and refuse facility will be located at ground floor level. The latter will be accessible to all and in particular will be linked to the communal kitchen and workshops.. It should be secure hidden from view but accessible to collection vehicles.




The scheme will offer quality affordable housing accommodation that embraces cohousing principles with dedicated creative business and workshop space, removing the cost of commuting and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of the City, creating a socio-economic sustainability that can successfully foster and adapt to the changing needs of the community.

A LWBC creates a balance of community and privacy, by arranging private, self-sufficient homes around a communal house with shared resources. The narrow access ways between the site components lends itself to the principles of co housing schemes. The location is within walking distance of public transport and other community essential amenities such as food shops, restaurants, places of worship and cultural attractions.

Assembly of the site would if necessary involve Compulsory Planning Order by the Local Authority under well being powers.


A range of affordable workshops of different sizes and configurations allow for people who desire a better choice of where and how to live and work. Large commercial/office space will be rented to outside business and a number of small retail outlets and a trading court can be used by the residents or again rented to local creative businesses.


The scheme will encourage empathy for small business and enterprise within a highly interactive urban community. Tenants will live, work via the internet, manufacture, produce and sell on site. Based on the Danish co-housing model, community interaction is maximised through mixing private living space with shared facilities in a co-house. The benefits of the community include the creation of a traditional neighbourhood within a dense urban centre with safe environments onto which the residential units front and common values. There are particular benefits for children in terms of secure play space and shared activities with their peers.

The multi generational LWBC is for creative professionals (including architects, artists, jewelers, potters, music producers etc) who choose to shape their business produce, within a fluid architecture that will change shape as their living needs change, shaping an ever evolving organic inner city community.

The communal living concept builds upon established demand for similar projects around the UK including projects in Stroud, Lancaster, Lewes, Dorset, Sheffield, Bradford on Avon and London with at least 15 other prospective projects.


A partner Registered Social landlord (RSL) will be sought to oversee and support the development. A mixed tenure of units is proposed which may vary depending on market conditions.

Approximately 25% of units will be owner occupied with units owned outright through long term fixed leases (called leasehold enfranchisement). Mortgage funding would be sought by such purchasers. The investor therefore benefits from any increases in property value should they decide to sell. Any profit from this element of the scheme will be used to cross-subsidise the rest.

Approximately 50% of units will be social rented properties subsidised by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Social Housing Association Grant at 50% of development cost the rest being funded from rental income operated through a fair rent common ownership cooperative. The land and dwellings will be owned by a registered co-operative which is controlled by its members who are those who lease the properties. The build cost will be financed by mortgage loans from long term investors (such as Ecology Building Society, the Cooperative Bank or Triodos or the Local Council through Prudential Borrowing or The Homes and Communities Agency), together with grants and deposits from members some of which are effectively retainers.

The remaining 25% of properties will be a form of shared ownership. The land and build cost is financed by the mortgage loans and divided into equity shares that are bought by members through monthly payments. Members will need to pay a minimum deposit equal to 10% of the equity shares they can afford to finance through their monthly payments. 5% will be paid on joining and the other 5% when land is purchased.

A credit check will ensure that potential members are able to repay the mortgage debt. The number of individual shares owned depends on the build cost of the individuals' home and what is affordable (these are the number of shares which are financed by 35% of net income). The value of the equity shares owned by these households must not differ by more than (+ or -) 10% of the build cost. Members therefore secure a 'foothold' on the housing ladder at lower household incomes and the correlation to average earnings helps reduce risk and retain affordability.

Similar tenure models are evident in Norway OBOS (Oslo Buildings and Savings Co-operative) providing for 214,000 members, and in Sweden HSB Riskforbund provides for 375,000. Le Corbusier's, Unite d'Habitation de Reze, in Nantes also follows a highly active co-ownership principle involving private and public tenants.


There will be a range of residential unit sizes. 20% studios, 40% 1 bed and 40% 2 beds of which 10% will have the capacity to adapt into 3 bed dwellings. Members can therefore move between properties as they become available and as their housing needs change (See schedule of accommodation).

All of the studio units and 50% of the 1 bed dwellings will have enlarged living quarters to enable home office working. Flexible workshops spaces will also be provided between some of the residential units that can be shared or sole used by adjoining tenants. 20 separate workshops will be provided for those tenants who choose not to live directly with their work place. Retail units and large commercial office space at ground floor level which will be rented on a commercial basis on the open market.

An additional guest space associated with the communal facilities is provided on a rentable easy in and out basis with an appropriate retainer.




This housing scheme involved the reconsideration of housing standards and regulations for the Peabody Trust. The enlarged circulation space renamed 'sorting zone' is the focus point for communal activity, and the kitchen are the most important parts of the dwellings. The zone is a room in itself promoting use for many different functions and the kitchen is for living, meeting, playing and cooking. The only built-in cupboards are in the zone rather than in the bedrooms. This plan reverses typical spatial priorities providing more space in areas usually designed down to a minimum. The remaining rooms are reduced to a minimum size and can be used in a variety of ways including fro bedrooms or living space.


An inner city site in Zürich comprises of three buildings 5-9 storeys for Kraftwerk 1 housing cooperative which promotes living, working and living and social inclusion. It has sustainable objectives and is financed by commercial loans, investments from members and state assistance.

These 'Suiten' are intended to allow different forms of communal and co-living though a variety of communal and private spaces. The building blocks feature a large variety of flat sizes, ranging from 2.5 room flats to units with up to 13 rooms and from 31 m2 to 350 m2. They range from singles and families to communal groups of independent people.

The range of unit sizes is facilitated by a repetitive constructional system of cross walls, which can be knocked through at points. The cross walls are spaced at the width of a typical residential room. This dimension allows an almost infinite range of potential layouts. The units have a central circulation and service core and it is also possible to insert private internal staircases between cross walls, to create two and three storey apartments.


Designed by 'Standard' for the Dallas Urban Re:Vision competition, Coop Canyon harvests enough rainwater, solar energy, and agriculture to completely sustain its 1,000 residents. The structure resembles a terraced canyon with housing units tucked into the canyon wall. On the canyon floor, community gardens allow residents to grow produce. The design exploits natural energy resources through a central atrium space.

Excellent permeability and footfall across and through the site allow for community engagement with the retail and crèche facilities. A communal facility with shared cooking and laundry and recreation facilities is a key part of the scheme as with all cohousing. This is located centrally on an immediate level so is easily accessed by all.


(Walter Menteth Architects 2007)

Clear span floor construction across the width of individual residential units means internal partitions are non-load bearing and enable considerable flexibility in layout from the outset (Schneider T 2007 p 195) (See Figure X). Spans of up to 6.5 metres require steel/concrete beam and column frame construction. Party wall block-work/masonry walls can be used as the main load-bearing structure. "Fin" wall construction maintains considerable flexibility.