Victory for Leeds school campaigners

Campaigners are celebrating a major step forward in their plans to transform a former Leeds primary school into a community hub.

Leeds City Council's executive board considered three bids for the former Royal Park primary school, Hyde Park, and opted for the one put forward by the Royal Park Community Consortium.

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Board members agreed the consortium should be given nine months to raise the 750,000 needed to carry out its ambitious proposals.

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The consortium already has submitted bids to funding organisations for grants and is aiming to make a start on its project before the end of March.

The scheme would be carried out in phases and include facilities for youth and community groups, a nursery, gym, office space, conference room, business starter units and possibly a library.

Announcing the board's decision to cheers from group members, Councillor Keith Wakefield, Council Leader, said: "All parties want this to succeed and for the building to be run by the community.

"We know there are a number of hurdles for you to get over but you have our best wishes and support.

"We have given you a reasonable time and we need to know in the months ahead if you have got funding or we have to look at other options."

Cllr Andrew Carter, Conservative Group Leader, said the consortium's plans have made great progress since he first held discussions with representatives from the group.

He added that the council had to protect the interests of council tax payers and hence the imposition of a fundraising time limit.

The school has stood empty since 2004 and in November 2009 a group of

activists, concerned about its deteriorating state, illegally occupied the large Victorian school to carry out some repairs and draw attention to its plight.

The council took legal action to evict them and court costs of nearly 3,000 were awarded against some of those who trespassed.

Board members refused a request that the costs awarded be waived.

After the meeting, Jake England-Johns, consortium spokesman, said: "We are delighted. We have submitted funding applications and the majority of the money will come from the Community Builders Fund.

"It is great we have got this executive board decision although we would have liked it sooner."