Leeds councillors support £40m ‘levelling up’ cash bids

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Leeds city councillors have reiterated their calls for £40m of government money to go towards “revolutionary” improvements to the district’s roads and leisure services.

The council is hoping to gain around £20m of funding each for two schemes, from the Government’s so-called “levelling up” fund.

The first proposal focusses on travel and environmental improvements to the outer ring road between Horsforth and Pudsey, while the second is to help create a new “Well Being Centre” on the site of existing Fearnville Leisure Centre.

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A third proposal, a bid for which is not yet ready to be submitted, is a “thematic cultural asset scheme” that, the report claims, “could focus on the delivery of strategic green space and parks improvements at a sub-district level.”

Fearnville Leisure Centre could get a £20m makeover under the plans.Fearnville Leisure Centre could get a £20m makeover under the plans.
Fearnville Leisure Centre could get a £20m makeover under the plans.

Introducing the proposals to Leeds City Council’s executive board, Coun Helen Hayden (Lab) said: “(The wellbeing centre) is a very ambitious proposal and it is ready to go. It is a vision we have had as a city council for a number of years.

“It would be good to fulfil this ambition for what will be a revolutionary wellbeing centre in one of the poorest areas in the city. It needs that help in health outcomes.”

Conservatives group leader Coun Andrew Carter spoke highly of the transport proposals, adding: “Traffic congestion there is at a standstill so to address that at an early stage will be useful.

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“The cycleway makes a lot of sense with active lifestyles. In particular, I would have liked to have seen a level crossing point on Calverley Lane between Calverley and Farsley.

“For the third scheme (the park) – I am in support of it, but the consultation needs to be with all the MPs and all the councillors. We have wards with different members of parliament, and we need to sing from the same hymn sheet if possible.”

Liberal Democrats group leader Coun Stewart Golton said: “The big question mark for me is that making this a very quick process, are the Government achieving the level of levelling up that could be achieved?

“At the moment, the councils are having to look at their shelves and dust off schemes they haven’t been able to do yet. It means some parts of the city may get attention before others do.

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“Other constituencies will be thinking ‘when is it my turn?’.

“Instead of levelling up it could be creating a greater level of grievance. We need to be on the front foot to deliver.”

Coun Carter responded: “If we are serious about lifestyle changes, we have to be in a position to indicate to individuals that they can change their lifestyles because we have put the infrastructure in place.

“You have to give people the wherewithal to do it. For once, let’s get on with the job and try to get the money in place.”

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Council leader James Lewis said: “We do have to respond to the national govt’s timescales. We have been ambitious for the first two schemes. This is about making a start and the whole city will be included.”

Proposals for Fearnville include 5,000 square metres of new space, including a six-lane pool, small training pool with water confidence area, fitness gym, studios and outdoor fitness areas. It is hoped final plans for the scheme will be drawn up by the end of this year.

The road scheme is expected to include junction improvements at Fink Hill, Horsforth roundabout and at Calverley Lane; new pedestrian and cycling facilities along the Ring Road; and new pedestrian and cycle crossings.

The third scheme, for which a bid is not expected until later in the year, has been dubbed Leeds Park City, and is hoped to “breathe new life

into every park in every community”.

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Local authorities are expected to bid for the funding and the number of bids they can make will depend on how many MPs are in their area. Leeds currently has seven MPs, while an eighth, Andrea Jenkyns, oversees a constituency which includes parts of both Leeds and Wakefield.

Executive board members supported the bids for the first two schemes, which are now expected to be submitted to government later this month, with work hoped to start by next Spring.