Leeds nostalgia: MP slams Leeds as ‘horrible’ and ‘drab’ back in 1946

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PLEnty of famous folk have turned their noses up at Leeds, not least Charles Dickens, who bemoaned the lack of pubs and places to buy penknives and was overly obsessed by the way people spoke.

However, 70 years ago this week, Labour politician Lewis Silkin, Minister of Town and Country Planning, laid the boot in like none before.

Dubbing the city “dirty” and “drab”, he called for a complete overhaul, adding: “I’d like some fresh air.”

Speaking to the YEP at the time, he said: “It’s about a year ago I came to Leeds to discuss with your council the problems of reconstruction of the town, which badly needs it. Leeds has not improved since I was here.”

He wasn’t done there: “The city needs complete redevelopment. It makes an awful sight, coming in from Doncaster. It is really horrible. It is like leaving your front doorstep dirty.”

Ouch. But hold on, he still had things to get off his chest.

Staring out of his hotel window, he added airily: “I didn’t find any congestion when I arrived last night but it was raining and about 7pm and that must have been the reason.”

Perhaps we ought to thank our lucky stars Mr Silkin isn’t around today. He died in 1972 aged 82.

Mr Silkin added that Leeds needed a plan and gave this advice: “It is no good trying to do things spasmodically. You must make up your mind and get a picture of what you would like Leeds to be like. Then you must ensure every development fits with the plan... then pull down the worst of your area and rebuild them.

“There is no magic solution for the problem of Leeds. It is a long term business and the sooner we start, the sooner we shall get a new Leeds.”