Residents discussed the future of a former Armley school site last night – but questions were asked whether the latest part of consultation process had already been ‘pre-empted’.
Members of Armley Forum met in Armley Library last night to discuss a raft of local issues – including the second phase of a hotly debated public consultation into the future of the former Whingate Primary School site in Armley.
As reported last week, an initial public meeting to discuss the site was held at Swallow Hill Community College, with residents deciding they would rather have housing built than a play park. They feared a play park would bring more anti-social behaviour to an area already blighted by problems.
At last night’s Armley Forum, Armley residents came up with suggestions for possible future uses the three quarters of an acre site. These included a playground, youth centre and a community hub similar to the one stop centre off Town Street.
Ben Middleton, head of asset management at Leeds City Council, said the site was ideal for housing, but could also be suitable for a doctor’s surgery or specialist care home. He said the site wasn’t big enough for a community hub.
Meeting chair, Cllr Jim McKenna, said last week’s meeting had seen residents living near the site giving a ‘very clear’ steer that they had wanted private housing in the area.
Regarding a play park, he said the site wasn’t large enough to accommodate it as according to planning regulations play equipment had to be 20 metres from the nearest property. He added: “Local people were against a park as they were worried it would bring more children into the area.”
With regards to the idea for a youth club, Cllr McKenna responded:
“You have to realise that this is a small site. I’d also say that it is all very well people coming up with ideas tonight, but we’re a good mile from the area and I’d ask that people respect the decisions residents who live opposite the site made last week.”
He said forum attendees wouldn’t want people from other parts of Armley making decisions about what should be built opposite them.
One local resident asked what the purpose of the Armley Forum consultation was given the decision on the future of the site seemed to have, in effect, been taken last week. She asked whether last night’s discussion had been pre-empted by the previous meeting.
Cllr McKenna admitted that the two meetings had probably ‘come the wrong way round’ but said views from the forum would be taken into account ‘if somebody had an outstanding idea’.
He said it was democratic that the views of last week’s meeting took precedent. He also said there was an idea last week for an arts facility ‘but that idea came with no flesh on the bones’.
Cllr McKenna said last week’s meeting was a positive one, saying West Leeds Juniors were offered the chance by the headteacher to access facilities at Swallow Hill as a result of the discussions. He added:
“It is great to see the community coming together and creating a vision for the future of their community.”
The former Whingate Primary School building – which was most recently used as a family learning centre – was demolished last year due to vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the area. Education chiefs decided they no longer needed the building, which had been considered as a possible extension to the existing Whingate Primary School over the road.
A Facebook campaign for a play area so far has almost 140 likes.
West Leeds Dispatch yesterday wrote an opinion piece on last week’s meeting.