Have you ever looked up at a decaying but characterful old building in Leicester and thought "that should be restored"?
Do you get annoyed by badly designed buildings dumped unsympathetically next to good architecture?
Are there areas near you crying out for regeneration that seem to be ignored by planners and developers?
If the answer to these questions is yes then you've found the right people!
Leicester Civic Society is a registered charity, affiliated to the Civic Trust which provides an independent voice in matters regarding planning, architecture and the preservation of built heritage.
Leicester must surely be Britain's most underrated city! Unfortunately it hasn't always helped itself - many visitors struggle to believe that the city is in fact at least 2000 years old when confronted by vast areas of bland residential and industrial sprawl. However, anyone who takes the time to explore the city properly are always delighted to find fantastic Roman, Saxon, Norman Medieval, Georgian, Victorian and 20th Century architecture sprinkled throughout.
We aim to protect these gems making them the inspiration and centrepieces for future developments. This doesn't mean pickling them in aspic or turning them all into museums - we believe in renovation and re-use as one of the best means of preservation.
This approach would be taken as read in almost every other city in Britain but this does not seem to have been absorbed into the culture of planning in Leicester. Instead we have an attitude where older buildings are either sidelined or treated as a 'problem' rather than an asset that could be restored and (crucially) re-used. Where else would a 10 storey Holiday Inn be permitted next to a 2000 Roman bath house (a scheduled ancient monument), BT Cardinal House tower block next to Grade II Listed Spa Place or the grotesque Victoria Hall student accommodation next to St Mary's de Castro and the Castle area?
Regeneration is vital to the prosperity of our city. Leicester Regeneration Company's 'Masterplan' launched in 2002 represented a sea change in the approach to development, away from the old 'pepperpot' individual developments of the past towards a co-ordinated plan for large parts of the city. Unfortunately, not all developments in the city come under the remit of the regeneration company and plenty that do have not gone according to plan either. Fuelled by the buy-to-let housing bubble and a reckless planning committee we see many examples of bland, poor quality buildings springing up in unsuitable or unsympathetic locations. Not only does this threaten our existing heritage architecture but it undermines the quality approach set out in the regeneration masterplan.
Leicester Civic Society calls for a fresh approach to regeneration which stresses quality rather than 'crane counting' and ensures that new buildings do not detract from the existing heritage of the city. We believe failure in this regard will lead to the current generation of new buildings being seen in a similar light to the failures of the 1960s and 1970s.