A contractor has been appointed to develop Leeds City Council’s plans to build council housing on the site of the former TV Harrison Sports Ground, writes Keely Bannister.
Wilmott Dixon have been appointed to undertake a feasibility exercise in relation to the Oldfield Lane site in Wortley, with a view to awarding them the construction contract.
In a council report confirming the decision published today (Tuesday 7th January), the council also outline the types of homes they are looking to build. These include:
- 2 x 2 bed/4 person fully wheelchair compliant bungalows;
- 24 x 2 bed/4 person general needs homes
- 17 x 3 bed/5 person homes general needs homes and
- 4 x 4 bed/7 person general needs homes
The report explains in great detail how the council selected Wilmott Dixon as the contractors, with a reduced timescale being a driving factor as the council seeks to avoid “substantial amounts of funding” from right to buy receipts having to be handed back to central government.
The report added:
“Another key requirement for this scheme is the need for a contractor with a proven track record in relation to engagement and consultation. Effective community engagement and consultation will also be a critical success factor for this scheme and therefore it is imperative that the contractor selected has a proven track record in this respect.”
Community engagement is important due to the backlash the council has received from campaigners unhappy that the authority wishes to build housing on the site rather than return the derelict land to its former glory as ‘Wortley’s Wembley’.
Once a jewel in the city’s junior football crown, past Leeds United stars such as Paul Madeley, David Harvey, Paul Reaney, David Batty, Noel Whelan and Brian Deane graced the field in its heyday when Leeds City Boys regularly played there.
However, the site has been officially closed and stood unused for the last 14 years after Leeds Schools Sports Association (LSSA) claimed the ground became unmanageable for them.
As previously reported in The Dispatch, Peter McQuillen-Strong, head at Holy Family Primary School and secretary of LSSA, said previous attempts to raise money to fully develop the ground had failed.
This is what they’ve done! Fenced it off shameful!@WLDispatch @itvcalendar @BBCLookNorth @LSLocalTV @NoelDavidWhelan @deanobri1968 @lufc @lea_westerman @andie1105 @TheRealestGinge @GatenbyCarl @wortleyfc @LeedsLS12 @savegrassroots pic.twitter.com/bdcMG20bv0— Save our Football Pitch -TV Harrison Sports Ground (@SavePitch) December 20, 2019
The TV Harrison Community Action Group was formed to preserve the site as a pitch, with members clearing part of the site themselves so children could once again enjoy it.
Debate over who does or doesn’t have rights to the land have raged, with the action group maintaining that the ground was gifted to the children of Leeds by local headteacher Thomas Vernon Harrison and two others after a public appeal in the Yorkshire Evening Post raised money to purchase the site.
But the council report disputes there are any restrictions stopping the land from being built on. It says:
“We have satisfied ourselves on the basis of the documents we have seen that there are no restrictions on the disposal of the site by LSSA. Documentation supplied to us by the solicitor acting for LSSA show that the second, larger parcel was purchased by Tom Vernon Harrison, Robert Jarman and Arthur Thornton on the 13th September 1928 for £1,800.
“The conveyance was said to be free from incumbrances, which indicates it was not the intention of the vendors that any restriction be placed on the future use of the site.
“We have also been provided with a copy of the abstract of a further conveyance dated 23 November 1929. This is a transfer of the site from Messrs Jarman and Thornton (Mr Harrison having deceased) as the original trustees of the Leeds Elementary Schools Athletic Association (LEAAS) to Westminster Bank Limited (now NatWest) to hold the land as custodian trustee.
“This second conveyance specifically gives the Bank the power, on request of the LEAAS trustees to sell the land. Although the LEAAS intended to use the land as sports field there is no restriction on the sale or mortgaging of the land. We have no evidence that the position has changed since 1929.
“It appears from a cutting from a newspaper from 1928 that the £1,800 used to purchase the second parcel of land was (at least in part) raised through public subscription. There is no evidence that we have seen that suggests any part of the site was ‘gifted’ to the children of Leeds and there is no obligation for any purchaser to maintain the site for use by the public.”
The council states that by building on the land they will help develop greenspace and playing facilities in the ward. They say:
“The development of the site for housing is likely to generate a commuted sum in the region of £80,000, which the council hopes will be able to fund some immediate improvements to local facilities, and will add to around £100,000 of similar existing funding already available within the ward.
“The council intends to proactively work with local stakeholders to support further investment from partners into the ward.
“There are a number of initiatives under way and further potential opportunities to improve and enhance the sports and leisure provision within the ward which could be further developed. The council will also use the early engagement with the contractor to try and secure some early benefits from the investment available locally.”
They also state that they are “extremely open and willing to work closely with local representatives and residents” around options to potentially enhance sporting facilities at other locations.
The council claims it will fully consult the local community prior to planning and before any works take place.
You can read all the relevant documents to this development here.
Read our coverage of the TV Harrison Sports Ground issue here.