Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has urged Leeds United and a trust which partly owns a historic sports ground in Wortley to ‘swiftly’ conclude a potential deal to buy the land.
As reported by WLD the Leeds United Foundation is set to open negotiations to buy the historic TV Harrison sports ground in Wortley with the aim of adding all-weather pitches, changing facilities and space for community meetings.
Campaigners have spent the past three years rallying against Leeds City Council’s plans to build up to 50 local authority houses on the site. They claim Leeds United Foundation, the football club’s charity, is about to put in an offer for the Oldfield Lane ground.
The Foundation is writing to the Leeds School Sports Association (LSSA), which is responsible for three-quarters of the site, as they attempt to start negotiations to buy the land. Leeds City Council owns the rest of the site.
The developments has been welcomed by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who is keen to see a deal struck as soon as possible.
In a statement made alongside Cllr Mark Sewards (Lab, Farnley & Wortley) she said: “It is now for the Foundation and Leeds Schools Sports Association to negotiate and agree a deal for the land. We wish them every success and we sincerely hope that the purchase is concluded swiftly.
“We also understand that the TV Harrison Action Group and The Leeds United Foundation will work closely together to develop the ground if their bid is successful. We are hopeful that this partnership will lead to greater investment in the community asset in a way that will directly benefit young people in Farnley and Wortley.”
The LSSA said earlier this week that they have been made aware that Leeds United Foundation may have a proposal to put to Leeds School Sports Association and say they are ‘keen and willing to get to know more about their plan for the site and their financial offer to the schools of Leeds’.
Leeds United has not responded to WLD‘s request for a comment.
WLD reported in September that the leader of Leeds City Council Cllr James Lewis (Labour) had refused to rule out building homes on the TV Harrison Sports Ground – despite previous assurances that the historic site would not be built on.
A report to the council’s decision-making executive board indicated the council still aimed to build local authority housing there by 2025 – despite the council having their outline planning permission overturned after losing a fourth High Court legal battle in July.
The council argues that there is a need for more local authority housing to tackle waiting lists in the area.
History of the site
The site has been a sports ground since 1857 and achieved fame in 1928 when a group of local schoolteachers organised a public appeal to buy the ground in order to save it being built on.
Backed by the Yorkshire Evening Post the appeal raised the present day of equivalent of £140,000 and, it was said at the time, the ground was saved for the schoolchildren of Leeds “in perpetuity.”
It became the headquarters of the Leeds City Boys team and many Leeds United stars played there including David Batty, Brian Deane, David Harvey, Stuart McCall, Paul Madeley, Paul Reaney, Micah Richards, Alan Smith and Noel Whelan. It became known locally as ‘Wortley’s Wembley’.
The key teacher in the 1928 campaign was Tom Vernon Harrison and, when he died the following year, the ground was named after him.
The ground was entrusted to a trust, now the Leeds Schools’ Sports Association, which abandoned the ground in 2005 and wished to sell it to the Leeds City Council for a housing development.
The TV Harrison Sports Ground Campaign Group was formed and to stop the proposed development it took the city council to Court. In August 2021 the High Court quashed the City Council’s first grant of planning permission to develop the site. The Council’s second grant of planning permission is currently the subject of a further judicial review.
In January this year Mr Justice Lane quashed the council’s decision to refuse the campaign’s application to have the site listed as an asset of community value. In July a High Court judge quashed Leeds City Council’s ‘unlawful’ decision to grant outline planning permission for housing on the site. It’s estimated that the four High Court cases are estimated to have cost the council more than £100,000.
All four successful legal challenges to the council decisions have been brought by TV Harrison CIC, a community interest company represented by law firm Leigh Day and Jenny Wigley QC of Landmark Chambers.
The campaign group has already restored the football pitch and regular local league matches are played on it.
Follow WLD’s ongoing coverage of the TV Harrison issue here.