is a large city in the county of West Yorkshire, in the north of England. Leeds became an important working-class city during the industrial revolution, when it was well known for its cotton and wool mills, and pottery. Since then, it has transformed into a university city (student population of about 60k) and into the second biggest financial sector hub in the UK after London. It is also a social hub in the region, with its shopping quarter and nightlife attracting visitors from local towns. Leeds is a relatively cold European city: with temperatures not exceeding about 25 degrees Celsius in the summer, and frequently below freezing in the winter.

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Total population: 793,139 (2019)

Energy poverty in Leeds

Leeds is an economically diverse city, with pockets of wealth and poverty. There is a considerable gap between rich and poor neighbourhoods, with 24% of neighbourhoods among the most deprived 10% in the UK, and 22% of city residents experiencing deprivation due to low incomes.  The city has a multi-cultural population, with 18.9% of the population coming from a minority ethnic background, including a large international student population. There are 104 different languages spoken in the city.

Leeds’ current situation

Energy poverty, known as fuel poverty in the UK, is experienced across the city, but with particularly high levels in economically poorer parts nearer the centre of the city. The student population also experiences higher levels of energy poverty. Due to the relatively large gap between rich and poor households, we do see households in Leeds that are failing to heat, or having to choose between heating and eating. Food bank use has been increasing in the past five years, with a 24% increase in use between 2018 and 2019, this is an indicator that some households are not coping with basic expenses. The formal measurement of fuel poverty under the ‘low income, high cost’ measure has 10.3% of households experiencing fuel poverty in Leeds in 2018, statistics under the new English ‘low income, low energy efficiency’ measure are yet to be released.

A great deal of Leeds housing is very old, and not particularly energy efficient. The older housing in the city is characterised by long rows of terraced housing, including a ‘back-to-back’ design (where one house backs onto the other). Newer housing, such as the high-rise housing that we focus on in our study, is also frequently poorly insulated and draughty.

Energy poverty rate:

Leeds’ vision of energy poverty

Leeds City Council’s (LCC) main policy for combatting fuel poverty within the city is the Affordable Warmth Strategy 2017-2030. This strategy includes a more ambitious target than the national target: to increase the average SAP rating of housing in Leeds to band C by 2020, and to ensure that no properties are below band E by 2030. The strategy also aims to make sure that resident’s health and wellbeing is not put at risk due to being unable to heat their home. LCC’s goals are mainly based around improving energy efficiency in Leeds. This will be funded partly through LCC’s Housing Department’s Capital Programme which raises the standard of council-owned social housing properties across the city. In the Affordable Warmth strategy LCC also note that they are looking for new ways of attracting further funding for this work.

Activities to be implemented

In our research we will focus on high-rise housing, built during the 1960s and owned by local councils, rented out for social housing. Some of these high rises are now insulated using external cladding. We hope to be able to compare experiences of residents in similar blocks, some of which have been insulated and some of which have not. We will work with the tenant relations team to identify and visit the relevant households, as well as signposting people to additional energy saving advice available through council funded services. We also anticipate working with an ethnically diverse community, given the socio-demographic makeup of the neighbourhoods in which tower blocks are located. Finally, many flats in tower blocks are either one or two bedroom, so we are likely to be addressing small households, including one person households (which make up 33% of households in Leeds).