The row over a school’s plan to fence off a popular field in Gledhow has stepped up with campaigners now looking to apply for ‘village green’ status.
As previously reported by the YEP, residents have formed an action group, Friends of Gledhow Field, against Gledhow Primary School’s plan to fence in a neighbouring field which they say has been used freely by the community for over 30 years.
The school, which owns the land, says it needs the extra outside space from this August as it prepares to expand to help meet the critical shortage in primary school places in the area.
But villagers have now announced they intend to apply to have the land granted ‘town/village green status’ under the Commons Act 2006 in a bit to halt the process.
The move comes as ward councillors have spoken out in support of the school - arguing the extra field is necessary for the number of school children, which will eventually increase from 420 to 630.
Coun Bill Urry, supported by Coun Ghulam Hussain and Coun Christine Macniven (all Lab, Roundhay), said the school cannot satisfy current outdoor play standards without using more of its field, as new buildings need to be built on the rear hard play areas.
He said: “It already shares its space with a nursery and children’s centre and much of its outside space is not usable. And aren’t school children as much members of the local community as anyone else?”
He added: “Clearly there is a real loss for people accustomed to using the field...and we will carefully study the constructive comments made by respondents. But we must also ensure that we have enough school places for local children, and that they have the play space they need for a great educational experience.”
Coun Ghulam Hussain (Lab, Roundhay) agreed but acknowledged it is a difficult act to balance. He said: “We are obviously open to looking at other opportunities but the situation we have is that the school does have the ownership of the field and as part of the extension needed, they have a right to do what they want.”
Paul Sellars, chairman of Friends of Gledhow Field, argued that the government’s standards on outside play space are only guidelines, not rules, adding: “If the school is saying they require the entire field, then I would like to see their detailed figures on how they arrived at that.”
He added: “I absolutely agree that the school children are part of the community and if they enclose the entire field, when school is closed where do the children play?”
“One of the main reasons we want to preserve the field is so that present and future generations of children have somewhere to play outside of school hours.
A petition, set up by the Friends’ group against the plans, now has over 450 signatures.