CAMPAIGNERS who are bidding to retain a former Leeds private school’s playing field for community use went head-to-head with the landowner and would-be developers yesterday.
A consortium led by the South Headingley Community Association wants to get the former Leeds Girls High School site on Victoria Road, Headingley, listed as a community asset. This would allow locals to have first dibs on the land, and give them six months to submit a proper business plan. However Morley House Trust, which owns the land, has put in an official objection to the group’s bid.
A review meeting at Leeds Civic Hall yesterday heard arguments from all sides. The council’s director of city development, Martin Farrington, will deliver his verdict in a few days.
The objection centres on whether or not the land can be proven to have important value to the local community as a whole, even though it was owned and mostly used by a private school.
Sue Buckle, chair of South Headingley Community Association, told the meeting that the field has been used for many decades by locals, something she backed up with extensive interviews conducted in the area. She said locals had always been free to use the site when the school wasn’t using it. “The high school field played an important part in the lives of many local children. There was a lot of use by a lot of people,” she said.
Stuart Natkus, representing Morley House Trust, said locals had made “significant efforts to restrict development” but had had various “failed attempts”. He said many of the reasons were “emotive” but stressed “none of this has relevance” and the only important thing is whether or not the site meets the legislative criteria. Developers have already submitted plans to build 25 homes and a convenience store with eight flats on the site.