Leeds school field homes plan rejected

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Campaigners who want to save a former private school’s playing fields for community use are celebrating a mini-victory, after plans for a homes-and-supermarket development on the site were thrown out by planning chiefs.

The site in Victoria Road, Headingley - consisting of the swimming pool, sports hall and playing fields of the former Leeds Girls’ High School - has been at the centre of a long running saga.

Applicant Chartford Homes and Holbeck Land wants to build a residential development and retail store on the site, which is owned by the Morley House Trust and the Grammar School At Leeds.

The developer has offered to provide some public space and a children’s play area as part of the plans, but campaigners say this is not enough and they believe the whole site should remain in community hands.

A planning panel of councillors has now rejected the plans, despite their officers telling them a refusal would probably be overturned on appeal.

Campaigners say they are grateful to be “fighting another day” - although they fully expect the decision to be appealed.

Headingley Labour councillor Neil Walshaw said: “We have got the decision we wanted. It was the best we could have hoped for.” Asked if campaigners were just putting off the inevitable, he said “no”, adding that it was possible that “we can talk sensibly to the grammar school in due course”.

Fellow campaigner Sue Buckle said: “Although we realise it’s not the final battle, it was just good to know that the councillors were listening. We live to fight another day.”

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 report to the plans panel had recommended approval of the scheme but acknowledged that “this application is very sensitive and very important to the local community, and very 
careful consideration has been given as to whether grounds for refusal could be substantiated in relation to the loss of the protected playing pitches and buildings”. However it added: “Officers consider that refusal is not justified and could not be defended successfully on appeal.”