Council officers have published a report confirming the closure of the much-loved West Leeds Country Park Visitor Centre and adjacent greenhouse in Pudsey Park.
As previously reported, the cash-strapped council is closing the popular facilities in a bid to save £90,000 a year.
The move follows a public consultation which attracted 2,035 responses, with 85% of respondents saying they didn’t want the centre to close. A petition with more than 2,500 names on it was also submitted.
A council report published this week has rubberstamped the closure, but has revealed that staff based at the visitor centre will replace casual and seasonal animal keeper staff at Tropical World and Lotherton.
The report also said that the animals would be ‘safely and sensitively’ relocated to other collections in line with the guidelines set out by BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).
The report adds that the council will consider options for future use of the site, including potential disposal to another owner or demolition.
As previously reported, Steven Newbatt owns the Candied Peel Cake Company in Farsley Town Street and wants to set up a facility offering a variety of services for the community.
West Leeds Country Park is a 32km circular trail running from the city centre,
through the green corridor of the Aire Valley around Calverley, south of Pudsey and
into Armley and Wortley.
The Visitor Centre is in Pudsey Park, it is free to enter and is a registered zoo. It keeps captive indigenous species ranging from birds, mammals and fish and explains the different habitats in the area, and how they benefit wildlife.
The visitor centre and adjacent greenhouse, which houses a range of tropical and
temperate plant species, have been closed to the public due to the Coronavirus pandemic since March 2020. The visitor centre and adjacent greenhouse cost the council £90k a year to run – and the authority says these costs include staffing, animal feed and veterinary costs along with the running costs of the buildings.
Proposals to move the existing playground to where the glasshouse currently stands and reduce the size of the playground by two thirds will no longer happen, following a public outcry.
Leeds City Council’s agreed budget for the coming year will affect hundreds of job roles in the authority, with services scaled back as the city struggles to come to terms with extra costs and loss of income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlike other areas of the public sector, councils are not allowed to run at a loss, meaning they must balance budgets within the year. This, says Leeds City Council, leaves it with little flexibility to withstand the blow from Covid-19, as well as existing financial pressures on the authority.
Councillor Carter said:
“The only way to describe this closure, when local members are still trying to find ways of keeping it open, are hasty, unnecessary, and bordering on vindictive.
“To find people interested in a Community Asset Transfer, or even willing to take over the running of the Centre, takes time. I believe that the Council have not afforded the local councillors sufficient time to find a solution. It is simply unacceptable that communities, particularly in the west of the City, are not given the same opportunities as some other parts of Leeds.
““There are a number of Government funded regeneration schemes available to us, which I am sure we as local councillors will now explore.”
West Leeds Dispatch‘s Cutswatch series has been following the proposed cuts over the past few months here.
Can’t blame the Council it’s Government cuts to them that’s caused the financial shortfall
I think its ridiculous that the council are closing the visitor centre in Pudsey Park this attraction is also educational for children and if they’re thinking of money first then they’re not thinking about the Education of our children and foremost there is no public toilets in Pudsey
Now they’ve closed the visitor centre my kids and me have to pee in the bushes. Is this the best we can do in the 21st century? That centre was on of the best things for small kids in the area. Disgraceful!