Leeds villagers left angry after golf club seizes protest signs in planning row over ‘Center Parcs-style’ development

Protesters fighting the proposed expansion of a golf club have been left furious after staff seized signs they’d put up condemning the plans.

By David Spereall, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 4:30 pm

Leeds Golf Centre, in the village of Wike, near Shadwell, wants to build 35 cottages for overnight stays, in a move locals say could turn the venue into “Center Parcs”

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Villagers clubbed together to purchase placards objecting to the idea, which were put up on roads across Wike and outside the club’s entrance last week.

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It’s also been suggested a number of placards were destroyed in the process of them being pulled up from the ground.

But shocked eye-witnesses have claimed golf centre staff turned up almost immediately and uprooted some of the signs, before driving them away in the boot of a car.

It’s also been suggested a number of placards were destroyed in the process of them being pulled up from the ground.

In response, the club said it had only taken signage that was on a slice of land it leases from the council, and that they’d only done so after consulting the local authority.

They defended their actions as “right and appropriate.”

Other signs remain up in the village, while some have been moved into people’s back gardens after the incident.

One eye-witness, who asked not to be named, said: “Within an hour of the signs being put up, the ones that were around the vicinity of the golf club had been put into the boot of a car and taken away by groundsmen at the club.

“We didn’t break any laws and we didn’t encroach on any property.

“It’s a very emotive subject. People are really angry that property they’ve put up has been damaged.

“I saw one conversation between the staff and a chap who was putting signs up. I don’t know if it was unpleasant, but it looked like a Mexican style stand-off.”

Another villager, who also asked to remain anonymous, described the incident as “pretty grim”.

“It all happened very, very quickly,” they said.

“The residents paid about £800 for all the signs. They’re really annoyed about it.

“We’ve made sure that any more we’ve put up since are within people’s gardens and private properties so they can’t be removed.”

In response, a spokesman for Leeds Golf Centre said: “We were aware of some signs campaigning against our plans for the centre and checked with Leeds City Council to see whether these were legally allowed to be where they were.

“We were told they weren’t and that they could be removed, so we only removed the ones outside the business as we pay the council an annual fee for this area.“There are still plenty of signs up around the village which have of course been left.”

The golf club put forward the plans, which include a revamp of its clubhouse alongside the building of a two-storey driving range, in 2018.

They say the scheme, which has been publicly backed by 97 parties including Yorkshire Cricket Club, would be “in keeping” with its natural surroundings.

However, council officers have recommended the plans be refused ahead of a public meeting next Thursday, on the grounds they’d be “inappropriate” for greenbelt land.

A spokesman for the golf centre added: “It’s important to note that we have received a lot of support for our plans for the golf centre here.

“And we also appreciate others have different views, which is great for open debate and rightly so – it’s this feedback that’s seen us make significant changes to the original planning application.

“And in this instance we did all we could to make sure what we did was right and appropriate.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “We received a complaint last Thursday (April 28) regarding unauthorised signage placed on or around publicly-maintained land and street furnishings near to Leeds Golf Centre on Wike Ridge Lane, Alwoodley.

“Officers had planned to inspect the signage but understood it had since been removed. Officers will continue to monitor the area and liaise with parties concerned if required.”