Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
A decision on whether to approve plans to turn Headingley Stadium into one of the region’s largest boxing and wrestling venues will be made in the next few days, council licensing chiefs have claimed.
An application went before a Leeds City Council licensing committee this morning for the Rugby Bowl at Emerald Headingley Stadium to be allowed to host two boxing or wrestling events per year, with a maximum capacity of 25,000 people.
However, the plans have attracted objections from residents and councillors in Kirkstall, Burley and Headingley, as well as police, who worry about the possibility for such events to attract anti-social behaviour.
According to the application, such a licence would permit the events on either a Friday or Saturday, to take place between the hours of midday and midnight.
At an online licensing meeting, Headingley Stadium’s operations director Sue Ward said:
“It is a sports ground so requires a general safety certificate. All outdoor events will adopt the same facility standards and conditions as required at all rugby fixtures.
“We have learned and acted on feedback from previous licensing sub-committees, and with regards to communication, we continue to liase with all residents and ward councillors via our newsletter.”
She said a meeting was offered to all ward councillors representing Kirkstall, Headingley and Hyde Park, but none responded, while only 61 sporting events had been proposed for 2020, pre-Covid.
She added: “This is still extremely low usage of such an iconic venue as Emerald Headingley Stadium. This includes rugby union events that attract less than 500 people, and also include domestic cricket matches that fall over four days and attract less than 2,000 spectators.”
Kirkstall councillor John Illingworth (Lab), representing all six local councillors, said:
“I’ve never heard anyone suggest the stadium was anything other than noisy. It is a nuisance.”
Nearby resident Daniel Shoreman said:
“The stadium only engaged with residents after the application was put in, and they were prompted by residents.
“They didn’t engage with us to understand what our previous concerns were for other events – this was reactive engagement. They didn’t contact every resident – they only contacted the Turnways residents.
“These are completely different events – people drinking on the pitches for up to 12 hours, with different types of noise. The noise of 25,000 people – nobody knows what the impact of that will be.
“While we’re trying to go to sleep and put our children to bed, it’s going to be a massive impact on all the residents in the area.”
The committee did not announce a decision in the meeting, claiming instead one would be sent out within five working days.