LET US PLAY: £3,500 bill for summer games on Leeds play area

Youngsters in one of Leeds's most deprived neighbourhoods are being denied access to a £130,000 play area.

The games area is on the playing fields of the former Miles Hill Primary School on the Beckhill estate, Meanwood and has been shut since the school closed last year. The school buildings were recently demolished.

Councillors for Chapel Allerton ward, which includes the playground, who are pressing for the play area to be reopened for the school summer holidays were shocked when the council told them it would cost between 2,500 and 3,500 to maintain.

Coun Jane Dowson (Lab, Chapel Allerton) said: "We were staggered at the figure for just the summer holidays, which seems inflated to say the least."

The loss of a valuable play area demonstrates the problems faced by families in finding somewhere their children can have outdoor fun, as highlighted over the past two weeks by the YEP in our campaign for more play spaces in the city.

Leeds has just 147 council-run playgrounds for around 143,044 children, compared to 311 for 82,700 youngsters in neighbouring Kirklees, and 129 for 65,438 children in Wakefield.

Many of the existing spaces are run down, a target for vandals, or don't have enough equipment to keep children interested.

The YEP is calling for play areas in walking distance of every home in Leeds, to suit youngsters of all ages.

Leeds City Council has said improving play provision is a priority.

Coun Dowson said: "Considering the fact that the multi-use games area (Muga) is only five-years-old, cost around 130k and is located in one of the city's most deprived areas, I would hope the council will try a bit harder to see if there is a cheaper way of maintaining the facility.

"There is a big discussion about the lack of quality play areas in the city, and I have noted the warm words of Tory leader Coun Andrew Carter on the issue.

Sign the YEP petition on play areas

"Saving the Beckhill Muga would therefore be the perfect opportunity for the council to show us it is serious in tackling this issue head on.

"It would be a disaster if this much-needed play area for youngsters in the Beckhills was not to be reopened."

A council spokeswoman said: "We are keen to ensure this valuable resource is made available to the public over the school holidays, however there are a number of issues we must overcome.

"Ensuring people's safety is our main concern, so we are trying to find a way into the play area avoiding the site of the recent demolition.

"There are also a number of operational costs such as maintenance and security to take into consideration."

Alex Newman, partner at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds

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