Plans to take a sports pitch where Leeds United stars of the past learned their trade and turn it into social housing have received dozens of objections.
The former TV Harrison ground, off Oldfield Lane in Wortley, has been at the centre of a community campaign to save it from development for almost two years.
The council last month applied for planning permission to establish the principle of a housing development, road access and associated external works on the land. Vehicle access would be off Oldfield Lane.
As the proposal is at preliminary ‘outline’ stage to establish the principle of development, the exact number of properties for the site will be determined in a more detailed proposal at a future date.
More than 70 local objections have been submitted to the council’s planning portal regarding the proposals and Sport England – an influential public body to build the foundations of a community sport system and grow the number of people doing sport – have also objected to the loss of a playing field.
Objections include the loss of a playing pitch and community resource, increased strain on local amenities and concerns over extra traffic on local roads, including the notorious Five Lane Ends roundabout.
There are also concerns that the initial outline plan does not include the proposed number of houses to be built, although the land has been earmarked for up to 60 houses in the council’s planning Site Allocations Plan (SAP) blueprint.
One local objector posted:
“I have watched many of the Leeds community enjoying this safe green space and the community thrive is the shared objective of recovering this ground to its intended purpose for the children and adults of Leeds.
“The ground has been even more important than ever during the pandemic and people I have spoken to have testified that the ground has been vital for their mental health.
“The Wortley community has a significant lack of same green space and the LCC managed park lands are both unsafe and poorly maintained. TV Harrison has the potential under the community to offer facilities the the parks will never provide.
“Additionally there is already a lack of supporting infrastructure around Oldfield Lane to support more houses. Ability to see a doctor or dentist is already terrible, the roads cannot sustain more traffic and the local schools are at capacity.
“There are alternative and more appropriate locations for housing in Leeds, I implore LCC to consider the big picture and listen to its constituents who do not want to lose this green space, Wortley & Armley needs this facility, there is no alternative within reach without car travel which absolutely contravenes the council’s green agenda and commitments.”
Leeds City Council says there is a shortfall of quality family social housing in West Leeds, with lengthy waiting lists for this type of housing.
The TV Harrison Action Group is opposing the sale of the ground by trustees of the Leeds Schools Sports Association to Leeds City Council, which is hoping to use the land to build up to 60 houses on. They say the area lacks facilities for young people and the community to use and have gathered a petition containing more than 4,000 names.
The group held a number of events on the field this year, bringing it back into informal use after the field was left to become overgrown for 15 years.
The field has been used for sport since at least 1850. It was bought by public subscription in 1928 and is held in trust by the Leeds Schools Sports Association to be used as a sports pitch. Leeds City Council owns a quarter of the site.
The ground also has strong historical links to Leeds United as the venue for the Leeds City Boys club, a representative team made up of the best players from Leeds’ schools. Its illustrious past saw it play host to former Leeds United stars such as John Charles, Brian Deane and Paul Reaney.
Cllr David Blackburn (Farnley & Wortley, Green) wrote to to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick just before Christmas, claiming Leeds Council has a prejudicial interest over recently submitted plans to build local authority housing on off Oldfield Lane in Wortley.
He said the council ‘cannot be seen to be acting independently and in an open-minded fashion’ over the outline application to establish the principle of housing and access on the former TV Harrison sports ground.
His claim came the same week that local campaigners had their request to register the ground as an asset of community value refused by the council for a fourth time.
Leeds City Council’s plans can be read in full – and commented upon – here.
Read our ongoing coverage on this issue here.