Building on historic Wortley sports pitch like 'constructing houses on City Square', claims former MP

Campaigners battling against a proposed housing development on a football pitch in west Leeds have likened the plans to "building on City Square".

By Richard Beecham
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 4:30 pm

Leeds City Council was granted outline permission to build 61 council houses on the TV Harrison football pitch in Oldfield Lane, Wortley, last year. But campaigners recently took the authority to the High Court and forced the council to list the site as an "asset of community value".

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A judicial review will now go before the courts this summer over whether the council will have to scrap the plans to build on the site altogether.

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A charity football match which took place on the site last year.

The pitch was the former home of Leeds City Boys, which helped kickstart the careers of football legends Brian Deane, David Batty and Stuart McCall.

Former MP and campaigner Michael Meadowcroft believes that, if the plans are cancelled, it will lower the ground's land value, making it possible for community groups to bid to buy the site.

He said: "I don't see how one day [the council] can say this is an asset of community value and the next day destroy it. They can legally, but I doubt they can do that politically."

During a planning committee last year, Leeds City Council housing officers said there was a shortage of affordable homes in the area, and that other playing pitches were available nearby on Wortley Recreation Ground.

But Mr Meadowcroft was unconvinced.

"They are building houses in that area like mad," he said. "There are plenty of sites to build on. The fact we have a housing shortage is an issue and we need more low cost houses - but they are not going to put houses on City Square, are they?

"There are reasons for not building in certain areas. They have accepted there is a deficit in sports grounds."

He added the site at Wortley rec was too far away from where many children lived, and that many of its football pitches were on a slope.

Once home to Leeds City Boys football team, the TV Harrison Sports Ground in Oldfield Lane, Wortley, has played host over the years to emerging young talents such as David Batty, Brian Deane and Stuart McCall.

But the site had not officially been used for nearly 20 years, and had since fallen into disuse.

The TV Harrison fields in Wortley, once home to Leeds City Boys junior football team, had been earmarked for dozens of new council houses following planning chiefs approving early blueprints for the site last year.

However, following an application from campaigners to the High Court for a judicial review, Leeds City Council’s decision not to designate the site as an “asset of community value” has been ruled unlawful.

Leeds City Council said it did not want to comment on the issue due to the ongoing local elections period.

However, a report into the issue by council officers last month stated: "Given that the site has been allocated for Housing in the Site Allocation Plan, but there is not yet a scheme in a position to be delivered, it is considered “realistic to think that there can continue to be” eligible, non-ancillary uses of the site, whilst a development scheme is being brought forward either by the Council or another party.

"The (housing) scheme currently only has outline planning consent which is subject to a judicial review challenge. Equally, the Council has not yet considered whether to appropriate that part of the site currently in its ownership for housing accommodation, and the contract that the council has entered into with the [part-owner of the site] Leeds Schools Sports Association for the purchase of the site remains conditional."

Our judicial review case comes to the court in Leeds on Monday June 20.