Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dirty Leeds

This is a phrase used a lot when footy fans in the UK are talking about Leeds United Football Club and although it goes back to the infamous team of the 70's, the description gets carried along with every new generation of fans and so I think we're going to be stuck with it forever.

But this post isn't about our football team. It's about the city itself and how it has now got the same reputation as the team and it's such a sad thing to have to say......but the city of Leeds has become a mess and a dirty disgrace and I'm embarassed to say it.

I don't know why it is this way and having travelled abroad a bit more this summer, I have to say it's only helped to show Leeds up in an even worse light - when it could so easily be such a lovely modern city mixed with a good sprinkling of beautiful old Victorian buildings and arcades.

I was in the city centre yesterday as I had to get my eyes tested but what my eyes saw, was much more than the usual amount of litter that seems to be the Brit disease in most cities.

That was bad enough and again I just don't get why it's there. Why do Brits drop litter in such quantities ? It's along the road sides, at beauty spots and of course, all over our city streets. Are we incapable of taking an empty crisp packet to a litter bin ? If a bin isn't handy, can't we crumple it into our pocket and wait till we do find a bin or get home ?

And don't get me going on ciggie smokers ! Ever seen one take a butt to a bin ? Well actually they do - the streets are their bins. I honestly think many believe that butts are biodegradable and over time they'll break down and simply disappear. Ah no, they won't. They get into every pavement crack and look awful as you walk the streets. And someone else has to come along and pick them up for you.

Ever watch a smoker open a new pack of ciggies ? If you do, you'll see them remove the clear wrapping, then the little foil piece and toss both on the ground. Just about every time. And if you try and show them the error of their ways, you get verbal abuse at best or end up in casualty at worst.

But even more than the litter I had to endure yesterday were the streets themselves. It seemed to me that every single street in Leeds city centre was being worked on. Why ? Why can't they leave them alone ? There is never ending construction in Leeds and although I know cities need to be maintained and made 'nicer' for the residents and visitors alike, that doesn't mean new construction on top of new construction.

I don't want to pick out specific streets as no one outside of the city would understand anyway but we have a lovely wide street running north to south right through the city centre and many years ago it was pedestrianised. Lovely. Over the years since then it has been tinkered with and yes, most of these tinkers have added to the look of thoroughfare. Pavements lowered so the street was the same level right up to the shops on both sides; lots of metallic benches added down the sides for tired shoppers to sit on and have a rest; hanging baskets added to improve the ambiance....those sorts of tinkerings.

I thought it was done.

Yesterday it was a nightmare. They'd let in stallholders to sell 'exotic' hot dogs, crepes and ice cream and you had to walk around these traders. There were entire buildings knocked down and surrounded by construction hoardings. There were metal benches at funky angles right along the street instead of at the sides so you had to avoid those too. There were 3ft rods sticking up everywhere to obstruct vehicles from driving down the street so I donno how the hot dog vendors worked their way past them.

Oh and a few bins but not big practical ones to hold all the rubbish - oh no, just little metallic fancy ones that look nice but hold diddily squat.

So now instead of a lovely wide pedestrian street that could be looked down and enjoyed, there was a chaotic street with people forced to look where they were going to avoid all the obstructions I've mentioned above. It might as well not have been pedestrianised as you'd have spent less time checking for passing cars anyway.

And the powers that be have had this long held idea that laying down bricks of different colours and at different angles looks good. Yes tile a street as it looks good (and provides a nice resting place for ciggie butts !) but all one type and going the same way please. All they've done is add to the shambolic look of the streets.

So many other streets were being 'improved' as well that I couldn't help but think back a week or so to the Italian towns we'd visited. Almost unchanged for 2,000 years and looked great for it. Yes I know we need modernisation at times and fibre optic cables and new gas and electric pipes need laying from time to time but all this construction really needed ?

The streets were covered with a fine layer of concrete 'dust' which added to the feeling that I was in a huge construction site. An entire shopping mall was now a empty shell and that shell was being renovated.

Lots of the construction areas had artist impressions of what the streets will look like in late Autumn so when I return in early May, I'd like to think that the dust may have settled and Leeds streets might be clear of the mini bulldozers and diggers and be uncluttered again.

Somehow I doubt it and I really believe that the work I saw yesterday will be in the middle of being worked on again as those in power in Leeds seem to believe a modern city has to be in a constant state of change.

Take a street. Pedestrianise it if you want. Stick a few benches on it and add a few hanging baskets and then LEAVE IT ALONE for a few decades so we can enjoy it.

It's not development rocket science after all. Oh and add a few more bins too as you never know, attitudes MAY change although I'm not holding my breath on that one either. Try fining people instead of threatening to fine them. Try telling the many different wannabe city police officers to actually spread out and keep our streets clean rather than gathering in groups to have a chat.

As you can see, one of them wasn't too keen on being photographed and I was SO hoping he'd come across and try and stop me. Oh I do wish he'd tried !!

Sighhhh......I guess I'm just missing Tuscany.


Daphne said...

Oh you are SO right! That bottom photo says it all - that's what you get in Leeds, and have done for decades. Elegant Victorian buildings surrounded by piles of tat, and one dreadful design idea after the other. I am certain - from the many letters I've seen in the papers over the years - that most Leeds residents agree with you. As for the litter, why do we put up with it in this country? What a contrast between these photos and all your stunning ones of Italy. Oh, sighhh. I'm missing Tuscany too.

Jennyta said...

I must say, I'm glad I don't pay council tax in Leeds!

Debby said...

I haven't even been to Tuscany but I'm missing it!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I hate to be blunt but Leeds was always the crappest city in Yorkshire. Your post just confirms this Silverback. You would be a lot happier living in Sheffield or Hull. In these cities we have none of the issues you describe so vividly. Perhaps we should contact The Luftwaffe to complete the job they abandoned in the early 1940's!

Silverback said...

YP I think those nice Luftwaffe people would be doing us all a favour if they added those two to the list as well.

Anonymous said...

To Yorkshire Pudding - I was born in Leeds but have been Living In London for seven years, I travel back to Leeds frequently and i'm proud to be from this part of the Country. I am not being biased when I talk about Leeds, as I can think of many places I'd rather live, most of them being in mainland Europe though. So to my point, I have to say I know Hull and Sheffield very well also and the comments you made about these two cities being better than Leeds is absolute rubbish in my opinion, Hull is one of the worst places in Britain, It has been voted that title more than once, only Middlesborough comes close at being so crap, I cant think of one nice thing to say about Hull - The Motorway out of it perhaps, i'ts famous for nothing, apart from John Prescott that is, i'ts a Dump! and as for Sheffield, i'ts also now famous for nothing, still slightly better than Hull though, the City Centre was destroyed long ago when they built Meadowhall shopping centre so close, and the steel industry has almost disappeared, theres nothing left, give me an example of whats great about Sheffield? Leeds has been one of Britain's fastest growing cities since the 90's, it remains the biggest Legal and Financial centre outside of London, i't has always had great wealth too, it's has some of the best Restaurant's outside of the Capital, even the famous Chef Raymond Blanc has opened up in the Centre, and that's why it was the first place in the north where a Harvey Nicholls opened. North Leeds has a great deal of Yorkshire's most expensive property, Large houses in LS17 regularly sell for £1-2.5ML. ! In the City centre, Not to mention the huge array of Luxury apartments that have sprung up around the river in the last decade, there was even a new Skyscraper completed last year, and another two were planned before the recession, how many do Hull and Sheff have?? Even institutions from London have moved up to Leeds such as the huge DSS Headquarters and the Royal Armouries. Leeds does have it's problems, transport being one of them, but its in another league than Hull and Sheffield. The only cities than you can really compare Leeds to is Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, then you could give me some argument!

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