Plans approved for Parklife at Matthew Murray site, but spell the end for Leeds United Matthew Murray training ground plans
A senior Leeds City Council officer has admitted Leeds United “changed their minds at a very late stage”, after the emergence of plans by the club to pull out of a proposed new training ground on a former south Leeds school site.
It follows news last week that the club no longer planned to build a training ground at the former Matthew Murray High School, as expanding Elland Road to a 55,000 capacity was a bigger priority.
The club’s revised stadium plan will instead mean a proposed switch for the Parklife community facility, from Fullerton Park to the Matthew Murray site in Holbeck, where Leeds had planned to build a £25m state-of-the-art training facility.
Members of Leeds City Council’s decision-making Executive Board heard this was because there would not be room to include the scheme along with the extra stadium capacity, park and ride and ice rink on the Fullerton Park site.
Under the new proposals, facilities provided by Parklife would now include; four 3G artificial grass pitches, a community café, a gym and a GP practice. The council says Leeds United have agreed to cover the cost of the design fees incurred by the suggested move, believed to be around £325,000.
It follows plans announced by the club back in 2019 to move the “bulk” of its Thorpe Arch training facilities to the site of Matthew Murray school over the next few years.
Speaking at this week’s Executive Board meeting, the leader of the council’s Conservatives group Coun Andrew Carter said: “Would it be true to say Leeds United have changed their minds on this at a very late stage, and that it’s somewhat delayed the whole process?
“I support the paper but it has been left a bit late and delayed the whole process. That irks me, because Woodhall Playing Fields are part of the Parklife scheme – I hope the Woodhall proposals are included when this comes back.”
Senior Leeds City Council officer Martin Farrington responded: “It’s late – it couldn’t have been left any later. But as members of the council, you would want to have regard to Elland Road as a football stadium.
“Leeds United have changed their position and wish to expand their stadium to 55,000 seats, so if we can facilitate that, that is the reason for the recommendations.
“Leeds United will pay our costs for redesign, recognising we are acting at their request.”
He added that plans for Woodhall should be able to be brought forward to the Football Foundation, which will run the Parklife scheme.
The council had agreed to enter negotiations with Leeds United for the development of a new training ground and academy at the former Matthew Murray High School site back in 2017.
A number of sites were then shortlisted by the council two years later, with Fullerton Park securing planning approval and tenders for pricing of the works were being prepared.
At the same time they approved an agreement with Leeds United for the Matthew Murray site, to allow the club to come up with proposals for a new training ground.
But, after the club’s promotion to the Premier League, they decided they wanted to increase the stadium capacity to 55,000, and that the extra space needed would mean either moving the
Parklife initiative to another area within Fullerton Park, or to the former Matthew Murray High School site.
The council was approached by the club a few months ago to review the Parklife layout to see if the scheme could be re-sited in Fullerton Park.
A council report said there was insufficient space in Fullerton Park for the ice rink, park and ride, Parklife and stadium expansion. The club then asked the council to look into building the
Parklife hub on the Matthew Murray site, and that the club would meet any costs in the early stages of redeveloping the scheme.
At the meeting this week, councillors agreed in principle to move the Parklife scheme to the former Matthew Murray site, subject to Leeds United meeting the additional design costs.
They also agreed to that council officers work in partnership with the club on a revised masterplan for the Elland Road Stadium and Fullerton Park area, meaning designs for the stadium expansion could be put together in the coming months.
Parklife is a national programme funded by the Football Association (FA), the Premier League, the Government, Sport England and the Football Foundation aimed at introducing all-weather football facilities available all year round.
A shortfall of 13 additional full size all-weather pitches across Leeds was identified and football authorities believe the scheme will ‘go a long way’ to addressing that shortfall.
It would consist of one full sized all-weather pitch, one 9v9 all-weather pitch, two 5-a-side all-weather pitches, an NHS facility including treatment rooms and pharmacy, a gym, changing rooms and café facility and car parking.
Design development is expected to take place between then and November 2021 before a planning submission in December and potential approval in February 2022.
Work is hoped to start on-site in July or August 2022, and be finished by August 2023.