By John Baron
£13 million plans for a new sixth form college in Pudsey have moved a step closer to reality after Leeds city councillors approved the plans in principle.
The Pudsey Sixth Form College would cater for up to 600 students on the proposed site, which is a former Crawshaw Academy rugby pitch off Kent Road.
The approval is subject to a raft of planning conditions and the final decision on the application will be taken by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities after Sport England objected to the loss of a protected playing field.
The proposals had led to both local concerns about the impact on traffic and parking, but also drawn support for building a bespoke further education facility for people aged 16-18 and above.
Cllr Dawn Seary (Cons, Pudsey) spoke at the Civic Hall meeting and welcomed the principle of the development, but raised concerns about traffic, parking and inadequate public transport, saying the college was ‘wholly unsuitable’ for the site.
The applicants, Luminate Group, said the college is needed and would offer a “natural” next step for pupils leaving Crawshaw Academy, Co-op Academy Priesthorpe and the Leeds West Academy after year 11. They will also introduce a raft of traffic calming measures, including a speed table near the entrance five road humps and widening existing footpaths, alongside introducing parking restrictions.
They also agreed to provide an annual £25,000 towards extra public transport provision.
Although none of the councillors voted against the development, six voted in favour of it and the rest abstained.
Cllr Dan Cohen (Cons, Alwoodley) was conflicted about the proposals. “I have got real problems with it. There is a need for good quality sixth form provision – and this college will provide that – but I have real issues about its accessibility.
“I am always robust about trying to protect green space – when it is gone, it is gone forever. Sport England’s objections needs to be listened too. They represent future generations who will need access to sports provision.”
Cllr James McKenna (Lab, Armley) said the college would be of obvious benefit to young people across West Leeds as a number of schools no longer offered sixth form provision, but labelled the developer’s offer of £25,000 to improve local sports pitches as ‘a bit mean’.
Cllr Jools Heselwood (Lab, Weetwood) had fewer concerns about traffic as not all pupils would ‘come at the same time’ and spoke about the value the new state of the art facility would offer young people. “We need to be pragmatic,” said the former Bramley & Stanningley councillor.
Sport England – the arms-length body of government responsible for growing and developing grassroots sport – has an ongoing objection over the loss of the pitch, which has been disused and overgrown for at least 19 years.
In their application, Luminate insisted there is a “surplus” of playing pitches in Pudsey and that its existing pitches to the north of Crawshaw Academy “are more than adequate”.
Following approval in principle, the application will now be sent to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to decide whether the application should be ‘called in’ for further scrutiny due to Sport England’s playing pitch objection.
In a report considered by councillors, planning officers said: “It is considered that the public benefits of the proposed development outweigh the loss of the protected playing fields by providing a purpose-built 600-place sixth form facility which will meet current and future further education needs in the catchment area.”
The plans have been brought forward by Luminate Education Group and developed in partnership with Leeds Sixth Form College and schools including Crawshaw Academy, Co-op Academy Priesthorpe and Leeds West Academy in Rodley.
The college promises to offer specialist teachers in up to 26 different subjects. Both A level and BTech courses would be available, with subjects ranging from art, business, media, philosophy and physical education to English, maths, computer science, law and French.
The two-storey building would be accessed from Kent Road.
All the plans, comments, reports and documents can be viewed in full here. Follow WLD‘s ongoing coverage of the issue here.
UPDATE: This article was amended to clarify that the cost of the new college has increased from the £9 million originally stated, to £13 million.