Campaigners who have been fighting to preserve a former school field site in Leeds for community use say they feel let down by an apparent lack of support for their cause from a major body promoting grass roots sport across the country.
The group want to save part of the former Leeds Girls’ High School site in Victoria Road, Headingley for community use. On Thursday, a Leeds council’s Plans Panel will reconsider an application for a residential development and retail store
Protesters are angry at the lack of an objection from Sport England. They gathered at the former Leeds HQ of the organisation yesterday to express their disappointment.
Headingley Labour councillor Neil Walshaw said Sport England had shown “utter indifference” to the community’s needs.
“Sport England have refused to object, despite their remit to protect community sport,” he said.
“We are baffled by that and I am still awaiting a response to that from Sport England.
“It’s been 18 months of utter indifference.”
Campaigners recently failed in a bid to get the field and the school’s former indoor sports facilities permanently placed on the Community Asset Register, which would have restricted development.
A Sport England spokesperson said: “Sport England must be consulted whenever anyone wants to develop on a playing field and we take this responsibility very seriously.
“We always object to a development unless a solution comes forward to meet our policy exceptions.
“In our view the new playing fields at The Grammar School at Leeds are over and above those being lost at Victoria Road and are helping to extend the sports provision in Leeds.”
In a letter to the council’s planning department, Sport England’s principal planning manager Helen Ledger acknowledges, however, that “should the site not be developed for residential development, the site could offer the potential for local community driven informal sport and recreation opportunities”.