‘Save this site!’
As Leeds gets ready to host one of sport’s most prestigious awards ceremonies in December, it appears the grassroots games may have taken a backseat in the priority of local governing bodies.
The Sports Personality of the Year Awards will be held in the city centre next month for the first ever time, yet by then, one of Leeds’ last surviving playing fields, in the built up Hyde Park area, could have been demolished.
The 10mx15m field, located between Chestnut Avenue and Ash Grove, is a rare ‘green space’ found in the Leeds6 postcode and is currently being considered as a location for further housing developments.
Plans put forward by Chartford Homes and Holbeck Land last year would see 26 town houses and eight flats built on the site whilst the adjoining sports centre and swimming pool would be demolished and replaced with a retail unit.
Local campaigners, under the title of Hyde Park Olympic Legacy Action Group (HPOL), argue that such a move would deprive the area from the right to much needed sporting facilities and would rather see the space utilised as a new sporting facility.
John Davison is a volunteer sport coach in the area and one of the campaigners who hopes to see the space awarded to the HPOL.
“Council Officers recommend the application by Chartford should be passed at Plans Panel as they deem that the small amount of open space ‘created’ by this development will be ‘open’ and will go ‘some way to helping provide access to leisure and recreation space in this part of the city’.
“They somehow seem to believe that houses and another mini-supermarket will be of more utility than two sports halls and a playing field would be for a community and schools who are acknowledged to be deficient in terms of sports facilities.”
He added: “Sport England also have no objection to the proposal of the destruction of the second biggest sports hall in Leeds, in this densely packed area.
“Despite the evidence supplied of community use in the past for the site and the efforts of community groups and sports organisations to combine to develop a business plan to run the site as a mixed-use sports facility, Sport England don’t seem to care.
“They don’t seem to want to make an effort to develop grass roots sport, only to develop elite athletes.”
The land is currently owned by the Grammar School at Leeds and has been backed by fellow educational establishment, Leeds Metropolitan University, to become state-of-the-art sporting facilities. A spokesperson for the university said the space would provide: ‘a significant opportunity to enhance our student experience with great coaching, coach education and work experience opportunities’.
Local Party members have also slammed the idea of developing more houses in the densely populated area with local Labour and Liberal Democrats councillors stressing the importance of ‘fitness over finance’ for the area.
Neil Walshaw, Headingley’s Labour councillor, believed the housing development would only be approved for ‘profiteering sakes’, benefitting the wealthy minority and ignoring the wider community. He added:
“All we need is the backing of Sport England and I believe our case can’t be ignored.”
The Hyde Park area is also home to a number of small local businesses who would also be affected should a new retail unit be introduced.
Pravin Dayalji has run his convenience store just metres away from the proposed development site, form more than 30 years. He fears that the development of further competition would drive his business to a standstill.
“It would definitely have a big effect on me,” he explains. “As a small retailer I have been here for 32 years now and it is difficult as it is. We already have co-op further down the road and a Sainsbury’s behind us with both stores open 24 hours.
“Over the years I’ve seen so many people leave and I don’t want to be one of them. There are already enough shops in the vicinity with the supermarkets as well, we don’t need any more.”
An initial decision in regard to the planning proposals will be made in December at the Plans Panel hearing. For more information about HPOL please visit www.hpol.hydeparkonline.co.uk and find out how you can get involved.