Annual Low Carbon Lecture

Community Energy: Putting people at the heart of the energy transition

Wednesday 13th February 2019

17:30 – 19:00

City Hall, Charles Street, Leicester770_440_1_1497363652_2PEC.jpg

For the latest Annual Low Carbon Lecture, Emma Bridge will give a talk on the development of Community Energy. Emma is the Chief Executive of Community Energy England (CEE), the organisation that represents and supports those committed to the community energy sector. CEE was established by the sector to provide a voice for community energy and to help create the conditions within which it can flourish. Emma has over fifteen years’ experience in sustainable development, working for public, private and community sectors. In addition to this, Emma has practical knowledge gained from the management and development of community energy schemes across South Yorkshire.

The event will be Chaired by Cllr Adam Clarke (FRSA), Deputy City Mayor of Leicester and Lead Member for Sustainability. A Q+A will follow the talk.

 Book for free at:



Welcome to 2019: First Observatory event of the year….

Vibrant Leicester: Buzz and the New Urban Economy – Thursday 10th January 2019

To start the New Year there will be an event on the findings of an exciting local research project into the dynamics of ‘buzz’ in helping shape the new urban economy in a city like Leicester. It has been argued that ‘buzz’ is said to emerge from the concentration of socially and culturally significant sites, such as music venues, restaurants and bars, cultural quarters, and marketplaces.

20180325_152430Such ‘buzzy’ sites are key urban amenities that are believed to attract ‘talent’, make cities ‘liveable’, and are thus imagined to be vital to the economic competitiveness of cities. Exploring recent investment in the urban environment of the city centre, a series of short talks will look to unpack the concept and explore what it practically means for the future development of a place like Leicester.

pics435bwalshbw2010122625 (2)

The event will feature contributions from the team leading the research project out of the University of Leicester: Dr Stefano De Sabbata, Prof Gavin Brown and Dr Ben Coles. Prof Loretta Lees will chair the event. A Q+A session will follow.

The event will start at 5:30pm and take place at the LCB Depot on Rutland Street. The bar will be open for purchasing drinks.

Places can be booked at:

This event is in partnership with: LCB Depot and CAMEo (Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies).


Save the date

  • Wednesday 9th January 2019: ‘Transition to electric car mobility’ (Prof Kambiz Ebrahimi – Loughborough University). 5:00pm / West Park Teaching Hub, Loughborough. Free:—inaugural-lecture.html

  • Friday 25th January 2019: ‘Violence, Authority, Cultures and Communities in Sussex and Kent c.1690-1760’ (Dr Lyndsay Poore – University of Leicester). 12:30pm / Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir Street. Free:

  • Wednesday 13th February 2019: Annual Low Carbon Lecture. 5:30pm / City Hall (Attenborough Hall). Free.


Remembering John Dean: 1st November 2018

On the 1st November 2018 around 200 people attended the latest City Series Lecture, given by Sir Peter Soulsby, City Mayor of Leicester and former RTPI President Martin Bradshaw, to remember and commemorate the life and work of John Dean.

All six at the Memorial lecture

Right to left: Peter Wilkinson, (FRTPI), John Acres (MRTPI), current President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Alwyne Dean, City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby (Hon MRTPI), Martin Bradshaw, former Past President of RTPI, and Grant Butterworth, Head of Planning Leicester City Council

John was City Planning Officer for Leicester for over 22 years and was a past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute- his personal contributions to the City and the profession were immense.

The Lectures followed a moving Memorial Service held at Leicester Cathedral for family, friends and former colleagues earlier in the day, following John’s passing in August this year.

Reflections on 70 Years of Planning: Martin Bradshaw

Martin B

John was due to give a major talk to give his take on 70 Years of Planning since the introduction of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act- Martin Bradshaw (ex- Civic Trust Director and former RTPI President) kindly agreed to step in and reflect on the life of John and his own recollections and observations on a career in planning which gave a powerful and unique reflection of two substantive contributions to planning.

Martin was a close friend and former colleague of John’s- his stories of work experiences and fascinating anecdotes- from Leicester to Cheshire, and Harold Wilson MP to John Selwyn Gummer MP- were very much appreciated and enjoyed by the audience.

Planning today is very different from the times of John and Martin, but it was clear that the energy, intellect and application of Martin and John could so easily address and overcome many of the challenges and tests we face, and there is much to be learnt from them.

Reflections on John Dean’s Contribution to Leicester: Sir Peter Soulsby, City Mayor

Sir Peter then gave a heartfelt tribute to the very significant contribution John made to the development of Leicester since the 1970’s, recognising that no-one individual had done more to shape the City throughout the period John worked.

From recognising the importance of neighbourhood renewal, and challenging indiscriminate clearance- through to protecting and enhancing the natural and historic assets of the city, John led his teams to the great benefit of the whole City.  The legacies of fighting Centre 21 and transforming the City ‘s retail core through regeneration which went with the grain of the place, such as St Martin’s and The Shires, was a crucial foundation for the vibrancy and success of the city today. This successes is being further enhanced by the City Mayor’s Connecting Leicester, tourism, transport and regeneration programmes.

Natural assets delivered in the 70’s, such as Watermead Country Park and Aylestone Meadows compliment the ongoing transformation of the Waterside Regeneration area today.

John’s innovation and leadership in planning for the cultural diversity of the city was also widely recognised and praised by many former colleagues who had returned to the City for the service and talks.

Please see Sir Peter’s presentation here: John Dean final and for a documented collection of memories and reflections of John’s career, please click here:  JD

Honorary Member

A further highlight was the attendance of John Acres, current President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, who took the opportunity to present Sir Peter Soulsby with Honorary Membership of the Institute in recognition of his contribution to planning in Leicester.

Sir Peter and John Acres

John was delighted to hear of the proposed award:

“An excellent idea re. Sir Peter. He would be a perfect recipient for an award like that. And it would show real flair on the part of the Institute!”

…and we think John would have enjoyed the day.

Eco Town
Photo courtesy Leicester Mercury


Sincere thanks go to Alwyne Dean and family; 

to Sir Peter Soulsby, Martin Bradshaw and John Acres for their contributions;

and to Peter Wilkinson, Justin Webber and Annie Provan for the organisation of the event.

In addition, thanks to all those who attended and shared reminiscences and memories which made the day feel so special, and a worthy tribute to John. 

The Grand Tour – Thursday 6th September

grand tour

To launch the new Leicester Georgian Interest Group, Roey Sweet will give a public lecture on the Grand Tour to Italy. A leading international expert on the subject, Roey will explore how eighteenth-century travellers experienced and represented the urban environments they encountered as they made the Grand Tour. It will examine the changing responses of the British to the cities of Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice, during a period of unprecedented urbanisation at home.

Roey Sweet is professor of urban history at the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester. She is also Director of Partnerships and Engagement at the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her research focuses upon urban culture, the history of travel and the reception of the past in the eighteenth century. These interests all combine in her book on British travellers in Italy, Cities and the Grand Tour: The British in Italy, c. 1690-1820.


The launch event will take place at 5:30pm on Thursday 6th September at the Great Meeting House on East Bond Street. Refreshments will follow the talk.

John Dean: a personal thank you

Planning can be a challenging job. Most planners seek to make the world a better place by trying to reconcile conflicting positions, of developers, neighbours, councillors and Government. This can lead to less than optimal decisions.

The best planners, however- like John Dean was to the core- are fiercely confident in their beliefs and judgement. John led. John delivered. John set the agenda and expected his staff to make sure things happen, and they did. Mr Dean did instill not a little fear but much more respect in his staff, and together they achieved much in securing Leicester’s position as a thriving sustainable city which emerged from the manufacturing decline of the 1970’s well placed to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

The news last week of his passing was received with much feeling and sorrow in the office.

When I joined Leicester City Council as Head of Planning four years ago, I was very keen to meet him- he was a legend in the office, and he didn’t disappoint. I found him to be an effervescent fount of memories, anecdotes and very generous with giving advice/direction on all matters planning and Leicester. His memory was crystal clear, and he embellished stories of Leicester’s development characters and schemes over the last 50 odd years with sharp wit and a mischievous twist. He told me the truth about Smigielski’s departure (bit of a political cloud there) and many other reminiscences quite few of which are not shareable over social media.  I enjoyed a number of lunches with John and my predecessor as Head of Planning, Mike Richardson and ‘young’ Steve Brown Leicester’s Group Manager for Planning. All three of us were treated to John’s warmth and humour, with not a little spice in terms of the planning issues of the day- John kept a keen eye on what we were up to.

John Dean 2
L-R: Mike Richardson, Grant Butterworth and John Dean on the right. [Photo courtesy of ‘Young’ Steve Brown]
He was very proud of the profession, but angry about how planning was suffering from Government interventions which didn’t appreciate the subject’s complexity and purpose.  John knew how to ensure the development world properly respected key environmental and social- as well as economic- objectives. John marshalled letters to the Times from Past RTPI presidents taking the Government to task, and his grasp of the key policy issues of the day never dimmed.

From high status as Fellow and Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, to the initiator of numerous innovations in planning for the City, when John spoke, people listened.

John was proud of many diverse achievements: ground-breaking flood protection works designed with county council colleagues in the 1970’s in the absence of government direction or leadership. Under his stewardship the City won the Europa Nostra award; John appointed one of the first Access Officers, and was keenly aware of the need to make sure planning policy respected the diverse cultural needs of the City’s growing communities. John was a driving force behind the production of the first edition of the ‘Quality of Leicester’- a book which celebrated the heritage of the city in a way which made people look at the city afresh, and lifted the confidence and pride of citizens and officers alike.

There will be other places where John’s achievements will be recognised and celebrated, but it is a real shame that we will not get to hear John’s Leicester Urban Observatory City Series lecture outlining 70 Years since the enactment of the 1947 Planning Act which we were planning for this November.

The last time I saw John I passed him some notable but dusty Leicester planning documents for him to research for the lecture. John remembered every detail of them, from the Beaumont Leys Masterplan to the seminal joint Structure Plan adopted in the early 1970’s- hearing his lessons learnt would have been fascinating and enlightening.

John Dean 1

Such a shame. But I owe John thanks for one more thing.

In the final year of my Planning Degree at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, I was given a tough time by a fearsome external examiner who tested the logic and thinking behind my 80,000 word dissertation. Despite the grilling, in the end I got a good mark and avoided my ‘Desmond’ as a result.  I’d forgotten his name until we met almost thirty years later. John said he remembered me, and the dissertation- I think he was being charming and generous- but I never got chance to thank him for his ‘hard but fair’ assessment which set me on my way in my planning career.

Thank you John.

My sincere condolences go to Alwyne and all his family in coming to terms with such a great loss- truly one of a kind who will be very sadly missed indeed.

Grant Butterworth

Head of Planning, Leicester City Council

6th August 2018

New Event: 9th August 2018

Towards Disaster Resilient Cities

Disaster book

The next City Series event will take place on the 9th August 2018 and features a pair of talks on  the causes of disasters impacting on urban environments around the world, and detail ways in which risk can be reduced.

Leicester like many other benefits from beautiful and well used waterways. However the city is one of the UK’s more exposed urban locations in terms of flood risk. Much work is underway locally to safeguard the city’s future, and to build ecological as well as flood capacity into local resilience work.


The global threat will be set out by Dr Ksenia Chmutina is a Lecturer in Sustainable and Resilient Urbanism at the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Loughborough University, UK. Her research explores whether cities can be simultaneously sustainable and resilience under the pressures of urbanisation and climate change in the context of both natural hazards and human-induced threats. Ksenia has an extensive experience of conducting research in developing countries, in particular Nepal, India, China, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. She is a co-author (with Dr Lee Bosher) of a recently published book “Disaster Risk Reduction for the Built Environment’ (2017, Wiley Blackwell).

Jonathan Vann will provide a more localised perspective. He is a Chartered Geographer, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Managing Director of Riverscape Environmental Consultants, having previously worked as a Senior Flood Risk Management Advisor for the Environment Agency. His talk will provide an insight into recent infrastructure investment which has reduced the risk of flooding, as well as the future direction of flood risk management in the local area. The wider benefits of blue-green infrastructure will be explored in relation to biodiversity enhancement, public access and riverside regeneration.

The first talk will start at 5:30pm on Thursday 9th August and will take place at Central Baptist Church. Places can be booked:

New Event: 14th June 2018

Capture Cameo

Creative Places, Co-Working and Community

What makes for a creative place in arts, media and cultural production? What are the different ways in which people make creative places more inclusive, collaborative and communitarian?

Four speakers will reflect on the nature of creative place-making in a diverse range of cities, towns and international contexts:

Fabrizio Montanari (UNIMORE, Italy),

Geoff Litherland (Co-director of Haarlem Artspace, Wirksworth),

Paula Serafini (CAMEo, Leicester)

& Prof Loretta Lees (Leicester Urban Observatory / University of Leicester).

Thursday 14th June at 5:30pm / LCB Depot, 31 Rutland Street.  Book at: