At the heart of Wortley, on the north side of Oldfield Lane near to Five Lane Ends, there is a large open space, much of it overgrown.
Sadly, few younger passers-by will be aware of this land’s long and important history as a sports ground. The T V Harrison Action Group is changing all that.
The name of Tom Vernon Harrison, a Leeds head teacher, has been associated with this sports ground ever since he led the campaign to raise public funds to buy the land as a permanent centre for the schoolchildren of Leeds.
Sadly he died in 1929 shortly before the land was handed over but the sports ground was named after him in recognition of his leadership.
In fact the land had been used for sport long before this time, with the first recorded cricket match being in 1857 and the first football match taking place in 1879.
It had been in continuous use ever since and, following Harrison’s work, it was put into the ownership of the Leeds Schools Sports Association (LSSA) so as to safeguard it for ever for use by Leeds children.
For more than 70 years it was the home of school sports in the city, including being the home ground for the Leeds City Boys football team, nurturing such fine players as Paul Madeley, David Batty, Brian Deane and Noel Whelan.
Then, in 2002, out of the blue, LSSA abandoned the ground, citing vandalism to the pavilion as the reason for being unable to continue using it.
At one fell swoop Leeds schoolchildren lost this fine facility and the land slowly became overgrown and beyond use. Sports clubs who applied to to use it and to maintain at least a football pitch were refused permission.
In June 2019 the Leeds City Council saw an opportunity to take over the land for housing purposes and it designated it for housing in September 2019. Subsequent documents reveal that 61 houses are planned there. Contrary to all the evidence of conveyances, trust deeds and legal documents, the Council made the extraordinary statement that there is no legal restriction on the use of the land.
Even more extraordinary is that the LSSA has supported the change of use and has stated its wish to sell the land in order to finance improvement to other facilities and to develop an alternative site to serve as the focus for school sports. A figure of £2 million has been bandied about but there is no firm figure.
Frankly, the value of 61 building plots is in principle considerably more than £2 million. Its proposed alternative site is at Whitkirk, which may well be a very pleasant location but being way out on the east side of Leeds, six miles from the city centre, it is no substitute for the T V Harrison sports ground in the inner city and just 2.5 miles from City Square. The Charity Commission has made a trenchant statement questioning the legitimacy of this proposed site as a replacement.
The local community in Wortley were outraged by this proposal and formed an action group, not only to preserve the open space but more importantly to restore it to community sporting use.
This group has attracted considerable active support in the locality and it has already taken active practical steps to make a football pitch available for friendly matches. Thus far, despite all the historical and legal evidence, the city council and the LSSA are defending the decision to put houses on the.
The Action Group is continuing to lobby councillors, MPs and LSSA trustees in order to achieve the necessary change in policy and to retain and develop the land for its historic sports use. If necessary we will reluctantly take legal action to ensure that the provisions of the key documents are adhered to.
All too often the tactic is used of letting land or premises degenerate into a poor condition in order to justify financial gain to their owners.
Wortley has already has another example in the case of the historic Cliff House and its surrounding land, and we certainly do not want another.
The TV Harrison sports ground had always been a city-wide provision but we know that the local community will make full use of the much-needed facilities which can be made available.
It is a large site with space for a wide variety of sports and recreations. Community management can be immensely successful, as the example of Bramley Baths in our neighbouring community has shown. We intend to do the same.
- Michael Meadowcroft, Chair, T V Harrison Action Group. 5 August 2020
‘Bielsa the Redeemer’ mural marks TV Harrison ground
Artists and Leeds United fans Nicolas Dixon and ‘Burley Banksy’ Andy McVeigh were invited to put together a mural at the side of the Pet Lodge Superstore on Oldfield Lane.
The mural shows Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa in the pose of the Redeemer statue, which towers over Rio de Janeiro.
The pair were commissioned by Pet Lodge Superstore owner Arron Lambert, who has played a leading role in the TV Harrison campaign.
Check out more of WLD‘s ongoing coverage of the TV Harrison ground issue here.