Night-time vigil for doomed Leeds school building

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FRUSTRATED CAMPAIGNERS staged a late-night vigil yesterday in a bid to save an historic Leeds school from demolition.

Residents have been desperately trying to save the former Royal Park Primary School in Hyde Park for years.

But work to demolish the building is due to start today.

The Victorian school has been empty for almost a decade, during which time campaigners fought to transform it into a community hub.

Campaigner Sue Buckle said: “We are devastated. It’s been there for 122 years, we have been trying to save it for eight years and it is just a dispassionate announcement that in 10 weeks the site will be cleared.

“It is ripping out something that is physically, historically and emotionally the heart of the community.

“We keep being told that it will be a grassy green space.

“That’s good, but we wanted our building which was promised to us when the they decided to close the school, which was completely against the community’s wishes and knowledge.”

The vigil was held from 7pm to 8pm yesterday.

Sue added: “The vigil is like a wake. It’s a gesture of solidarity.”

In 2009, protestors moved into the site before being evicted by Leeds City Council.

A plan to transform the building and turn it into a centre for the community was also drawn up by members of the The Royal Park Community Consortium.

Councillor Neil Walshaw (Lab, Headingley) said: “It is a tragedy for local people.

“I have a lot of respect for the Royal Park campaigners. They have worked really hard. But the money needed to save the site has always been a big obstacle.

“Being secured as a green space is the next best thing.

“Many local families don’t have gardens and I will be devoting my energies now to making sure it’s an excellent play space for local kids.”

Leeds City Council officers look set to spend £146,214 to demolish the building.

A recent report to the authority said if the building wasn’t demolished, it would be at risk from break-ins, theft, vandalism, anti-social behaviour and arson attacks.

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