Kevin Grady – a watchdog who doesn’t always guard us well

by Christopher Todd

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Kevin Grady says the trolleybus is in the city’s best interests (Yorkshire Evening Post June 28, 2013). Dr Grady is the man whom the press used to dub the town’s ‘achitectural heritage watchdog’ (YEP, May 15, 2002, March 3, 2010), but more recently – and somewhat tellingly – as simply the ‘civic watchdog’ (Guardian Unlimited, October 21, 2010). The press stressed fairly recently that Dr Kevin Grady and the Leeds Civic Trust “have a substantial say in what happens to development in the city” (YEP, November 8, 2012), and this has been so for some considerable time. We are reminded that “Dr Kevin Grady heads Leeds Civic Trust’s committee which monitors new planning applications concerning the Leeds metropolitan district and he often meets with developers before plans are formally submitted to the council.” (Yorkshire Post, June 19, 2013 (cf. YEP, June 21, 2013).

His general opposition to the original Clarence Dock development (where he also came up against English Heritage) has been proved right, and he rightly praised the Light shopping and leisure complex (YEP, November 14, 2002) which makes a point of hiding everything within the old Leeds Permanent Building, and also the conversion of Carr Mill into student flats on the Meanwood Roasd (YEP, May 14, 2003, June 24, 2003). I think most can, like him, approve of this and other examples in Leeds which give new life to old buildings, etc., etc.

However, if wary of choosing them as places to live (Building Design, April 07, 2006, p.8, September 29, 2006, p.8) and wary of profileration, he saw it as as “vital that Leeds capitalises on the tremendous development boom.” (YEP, November 30, 2006), and he was at one time a wholehearted supporter of the plans for some of the ever higher modern Towers of Babel (and remember what has been said about the reputation of both Leeds City Council and the Civic Trust for showing scant respect for the views of the general public and on the ambiguous relationship with developers (cf. Ian Strange & David Whitney, ‘The Changing Roles and Purposes of Heritage Conservation in the UK’, Planning, Practice & Research, Vol. 18, No. 2–3 ( May–August, 2003, pp. 219–229 (p226), etc).