Leading architect Irena Baumann says regeneration of city centres has created a visable wealth gap

A disproportionate focus on the regeneration of city centres in recent years has been a major contributing factor in sparking social unrest like the riots of last summer, leading architect and director of Bauman Lyons Associates Irena Bauman, has said.

Bauman was speaking ahead of the publication of a report on the potential for regeneration in Leeds by ideas forum Leeds Love It Share It later this month, which concluded that physical environment is one of three key contributors to social problems.

Bauman, one of the authors of the report, said: “What we are saying to designers is that we have been focusing on city centres but all the while we have been doing this, right next to city centres there have been very deprived areas which are ignored.”

She added: “It’s so easy to see what wealth looks like and that you don’t have it.”

She said that public policy makers and designers needed to focus on improving the environments where people lived just outside the city centre. Plus, designers must consider social impacts of design when drawing up plans for regeneration, she added.

The report, which examined the Richmond Hill area of Leeds, found the community was cut off by the lack of physical access to the city centre and poor built environment design, with increasing suburban development adding to residents sense of isolation and marginalisation.

It added: “Planning should encourage the redevelopment and reinstatement of a high street as a community hub. It should also encourage the development of the considerable stock of derelict or under-utilised property of low value for social enterprise or forms of collective ownership.”

Bauman will be discussing the implications of the study for regeneration policy and the riots at Ecobuild on Wednesday.