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Editor’s letter: Parking charges at parks proves a hot topic

By WLD editor John Baron

There’s one story which has really prompted a rigorous debate – and a lot of concern – from readers this week.

Leeds City Council is proposing to introduce 40p per hour parking charges at parks and green spaces across the city. And the Labour-run administration says the move would bring in badly-needed cash as it is having to use reserves for the first time in recent history to plug a £15m funding gap.

A couple of our articles about the proposals have been our two best-read articles of the week and have prompted dozens of comments both on the site and on social media.

Many people have expressed concerns about the proposals, highlighting the existing cost of living crisis and the cost of families using alternative transport, particularly to some of the harder-to-reach city parks like Roundhay, Golden Acre and Kirkstall Abbey.

Gotts Park Mansion Armley
Gotts Park Mansion, Armley. Photo: Katherine Turner

A total of 21 community parks across the city are under consideration, with sources telling WLD that parking charges in West Leeds could be implemented at Armley Park, Bramley Falls Wood, Farnley Hall Park, New Wortley Rec, Queens Park in Pudsey, Gotts Park in Armley, Stanningley Park and Western Flatts Park in Wortley.

The plans have drawn criticism and been labelled a “fresh air tax” by local Liberal Democrat councillors, but they have the backing of Labour’s West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin, who argues: “I’m trying to get people out of their cars. I need to get people on buses and on trains.”

The council argues it is facing a challenging time financially due, in part, to cuts in Government grants and other rising costs.

But given the outcry from people, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an update over the next couple of days and at least a partial u-turn. We’ll keep following this story as it develops – the ensuing debate only goes to show the continued importance of public interest journalism on a local level.

On another note, I’ve been delighted to start not one but two community reporter training courses this week. One was at the delightful women’s group of refugees and asylum seekers at Meeting Point in Armley and the other a beginners’ course at our community newsroom in Bramley Lawn. I’m looking forward to seeing what both groups produce!

gaunts sunny bank mills
Success: Owners the Gaunts at Sunny Bank Mills

That was the week that was

Aside from parking charges, most read content on the site included:

Third most popular article was highlighting the disturbances on Boxing Day night at Bojangles in Pudsey. Police are appealing for information to trace ten people.

Fourth most popular article as from our community reporter Damon Cooper, who highlights the renaissance of Farsley’s Sunny Bank Mills, which – he argues – is a cornerstone of creativity. (The Mills announcing its 100th business signing up was our sixth most-read story, incidentally).

And our fifth most-read article was the incident in which a takeaway owner – who was branded a Good Samaritan in Armley for helping to feed homeless people over Christmas – being targeted by an axe wielding robber.

It was also good to see Farsley Celtic come out and make a statement about the club’s future following speculation about the club’s financial future and make a number of new appointments to the board. Time will tell as to whether the changes will bring fresh stability to the club.Check out WLD‘s Farsley Celtic section for the latest.

west leeds dispatch board
West Leeds Dispatch board: (from left): Noel Akers, Jill Stocks, Diane Law, Iola Shaw and Anne Akers. Front row: John Baron. Emma Bearman is also a board member, as is Sara Hawthorn.

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