Our Huddersfield recently caught up with Leah Stuart, Huddersfield Unlimited’s newly appointed board director and chair of HU’s Transport and Connectivity Group who is helping drive forward the organisation’s aims to improve Huddersfield’s transport links and increase infrastructure investment in the town. We asked Leah about the experience she brings to the team and her ambitions for Huddersfield.

Well, Leah, can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in Yorkshire and studied Civil Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, then worked in London for eight years. I have lived in Huddersfield since 2010, which is why I have a special interest in making our town a wonderful place to be; it’s where I want my family and all families to be able to flourish. 

Having spent over 20-years in urban generation and transport planning, I am currently Director of Civic Engineers, a civil, structural, and transport engineering consultancy, with studios in Leeds, Manchester, London, and Glasgow. During my career, I have contributed to policies and devised strategies for implementing transport and infrastructure solutions to best support future growth and promote healthier lives.

I am a member of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Climate, Energy and Environment committee, which oversees projects and spending to reach Net Zero in West Yorkshire. I’m also an active member of the Yorkshire Design Review panel, assessing the design quality of projects at the pre-planning stage, providing feedback on schemes across the region.

What inspired you to join the Huddersfield Unlimited Transport & Connectivity working group?

I am passionate about making great places and I know the value that inclusive movement networks and good public realm can bring.

My work across the country has shown how supporting active travel and public transport can have a huge positive impact on communities, businesses, and the environment. People in Huddersfield and from further afield need to be able access everything easily and safely, connecting them to all the great things Huddersfield has to offer.

I am a firm believer in a collaborative approach; only by working together do we get places that are fair and equitable, successfully catering for the needs of all parts of society. For too long, our towns have been planned by a limited pool of people who have constructed the networks which fit the way they live their lives, but in doing so, have excluded many other groups. By listening to more voices, we can design places that are accessible to everyone, whatever their gender, ethnicity, ability or age.

Explain your role within the Huddersfield Unlimited Transport & Connectivity working group

The Transport & Connectivity working group wants Huddersfield to be a recipient of ambitious and excellent transport investment, so that residents and businesses can benefit from it. Building on comments received during a consultation we undertook with the organisation ‘Create Streets’, we intend to develop and promote a vision for change. We are keen to join the dots between public, private and third sector organisations to facilitate better conditions for people using walking, wheeling, and using public transport, so  we are in regular dialogue with Kirklees Council and Network Rail, for example acting as a ‘critical friend’ during consultation processes for the Transpennine Express work and local network improvements.

It’s great that the Transpennine Upgrade will deliver a faster and more reliable train service:  Huddersfield is in a fantastic position to capitalise on this, especially with its strategic location between Leeds and Manchester. However, the next few years, during the construction period, are likely to be disrupted, so we are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts and seek maximum short-term benefit and long-term learning from any temporary interventions.

What are your aims for public transport across Huddersfield?

Buses need to be cleaner, greener, more affordable, safe, regular, and comfortable. They need to interlink with excellent rail services, safe walking routes and dedicated cycle facilities so that people’s door to door journeys are seamless.

Walking, cycling, and using public transport should be easier and quicker than using the car.

What is your personal vision for the town in the next 10 years?

It is for the town to be a climate-responsive, equitable, nature-based, biodiverse, prosperous town; a wonderful place to live, work and learn.

If Huddersfield is an attractive place to live, and students choose to live here after university, businesses will have a strong local workforce and good customer base, so will want to invest.

I want people to choose to live, learn, work, and invest in Huddersfield and be able to access all the facilities that they need within a 15-minute walk.

On a personal level, what do you love most about the town?

Huddersfield is such a handsome town with some amazing buildings and great people. George Square is a world class space and Greenhead Park is a fantastic asset which benefits so many people. I love that there are green routes running through the town and interesting footpaths that connect to the beautiful countryside beyond. I also love its location, it’s easy for me to travel east or west to access the best of the North.