Council’s refusal to list historic Leeds football pitch as an asset of community value is unlawful, judge rules

A judge has ruled that a council’s refusal to list an historic Leeds football pitch as an asset of community value is unlawful.

By Alexandra Wood
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 10:49 am

The ruling by Mr Justice Lane, sitting in the High Court of Justice, was welcomed by campaigners fighting to retain the pitch at Oldfield Lane, Wortley, and who want to bring the whole site into use as a sports and community facility.

The field, which is earmarked for housing, was once home to the Leeds City Boys football team, where football legends such as David Batty, Brian Deane and Stuart McCall first made their names.

Yesterday Leeds City Council said it accepted the judicial review decision and would reconsider the application by campaigners for the TV Harrison sports field to be registered as an asset of community value (ACV).

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Archive pic from April 2021 showing Noel Whelan, former Leeds United player who played on the pitch as a youngster, and members of the action group with teams from AB Autos and UCC who were playing a charity match Picture: Steve Riding

An ACV is land or property of importance to a local community which is subject to additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.

The latest move follows the granting of outline planning permission for 61 new council houses on the site, which is part-owned by the council, following a vote last September.

Michael Meadowcroft, chair of the campaign group, who was MP for Leeds West from 1983 to 1987, welcomed the Judge’s decision. He said: “If it is designated it confers a number of vitally important rights, in particular the community would have the right to buy the ground in order to safeguard it.

“Also, in its submission to the court, the city council stated that it ‘may terminate the agreement [to purchase] in certain circumstances including if the land is listed as an Asset of Community Value’.

Charity football match at TV Harrison ground, Oldfield Lane, Leeds. St Bartholomews Church is in the background Picture: Steve Riding

“These are very positive steps in our campaign to retain the sports ground and to begin to implement our plans to bring the whole site into use as a sports and community facility.”

Housing officials have said the area of Leeds the site sits in suffers from a severe shortage of social housing.

At September’s planning meeting, applicant Leeds City Council said there was a shortage of affordable homes in the area, and that other playing pitches were available nearby on Wortley Recreation Ground.

A council legal officer told the meeting that even if the site was to be declared an ACV, it would not offer any protection from development.

Five members voted for and five against, leaving the committee’s Labour chairwoman, Coun Eileen Taylor, with the casting vote.

The site was allocated for housing in the Leeds Site Allocations Plan 2019. Mr Justice Lane said it was “common ground” that it was now too late to bring a challenge to the allocation.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said the council would reflect on the findings of the judgement, adding: “As a result of the decision we are undertaking a review of our approach to determining assets of community value in order to improve our processes.

"The council will now reconsider the application for TV Harrison sports field to be registered as an ACV.”