Say hello to… Leigh

What sparked your interest in planning?

Studying cultural geography at Bristol University and looking at how the council’s regeneration strategy has impacted on social justice here. In particular, watching how the city centre has changed as more money has come in. I’m a great believer in development and the benefits it can bring (which is why I do what I do!) but it needs to be harnessed carefully to make sure that the things that make Bristol such an exciting place to be – its people, culture, heritage and creative forums – are nurtured and protected.

What is the best advice you were ever given?

My slightly absurdist grandad always used to tell me ‘never push your grandmother when she’s shaving’. I never really understood what he meant by it, but I never did and haven’t come to any serious harm yet…

How do you see the industry evolve in the next 3-5 years?

For Bristol at least, more focus being given to alternative approaches to housing delivery. This will probably need to be more directly delivered (or at least joint-ventured) by the public sector on land that they own than has been the case in recent years. Bristol in particular is really up against it to deliver more affordable housing. There’s a groundswell of young people getting angrier and angrier at how expensive having a roof over your head is becoming, whilst losing faith in the private sector’s ability to fix it.

Which project are you most proud of and why?

Our work for South Gloucestershire Council, where my research helped identify areas in need of regeneration in the suburbs of Bristol’s northern and eastern fringes. This is now being rolled forward as part of their planning strategy for the district and hopes to direct development away from car-based, copy-and-paste suburban housebuilding towards bolder placemaking with a more ‘liveable’ neighbourhood feel.

On a personal level I helped the Brunswick Club – an arts-led community facility on Brunswick Square in Bristol – successfully resist plans to shut them down and turn their building into flats. The city needs more housing, but not at the expense of the community facilities that make it attractive to live here in the first place.

Weekends are for ….

Music and dancing. I try to do my bit for Bristol music by running an events company outside of my day job. That and hoarding records takes up a lot of my spare time!