Backlash over Leeds school sports field planning decision

Demonstrators at the former Leeds Girls' High School site, among them local ward councillors Neil Walshaw and Martin Hamilton, and MP Greg Mulholland
Demonstrators at the former Leeds Girls' High School site, among them local ward councillors Neil Walshaw and Martin Hamilton, and MP Greg Mulholland
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COUNCIL bosses were today facing a growing backlash over a planning decision which killed a Leeds community’s hopes of reclaiming a former school sports site for local use.

The YEP reported yesterday that planning chiefs had reluctantly approved plans for housing and a supermarket on the former Leeds Girls’ High School site on Victoria Road, Headingley.

The decision followed a seven year battle by local campaigners and ward councillors to retain the land for use by the community.

An 11th hour bid by campaigners to get the school field part of the site listed as a community asset did not convince councillors who, despite expressing sympathy with locals, said their hands were effectively tied by potentially costly legal implications for the authority of refusing the application.

Campaigners were today still reeling, and questions were being raised across social media and by commentators about the legitimacy of approving planning application while a community buyout bid is still to be decided on.

One local, Janet Bailey, said: “This application should not have been passed, and certainly not in the way it was with denial of representation to the community.”

A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “We can confirm a nomination for the playing field has recently been received to register the site as an Asset of Community Value but at this stage no decision has been made on this. The nomination to register the playing field as an Asset of Community Value is a separate process to determining a planning application. Yesterday, after a long and difficult decision making process members of the South and West Plan Panel, resolved to grant outline planning permission for housing and a small retail unit on the site for the vacant Leeds Girls High School swimming pool, sports hall and playing fields site.”

Leeds-based Holbeck Land and Chartford Homes said today its workers will be on site by the end of this year to start building 24 new houses, a small convenience store and a ‘pocket park’.

Spokesman John Barraclough said: “We’re delighted that planning permission has at last been granted for this scheme which will create the first new houses in Headingley for over 30 years.

“The scheme will revive plans dating back to 1924 before the land was acquired by Leeds Girls High School for a new road of housing with a pedestrian connection from Chestnut Avenue

The firm has also offered to voluntarily contribute to the costs of new sports and play equipment for the local community.

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