Wortley: Campaigners hit out as council rejects bid to list former sports field as community asset

26 March 2020

Campaigners have criticised a decision not to list a former Wortley sports field – where Leeds United legends once played – as an asset of community value.

The TV Harrison Community Action Group is fighting to stop Leeds City Council buying the land on Oldfield Lane and building up to 50 local authority houses on the site.

They had hoped to preserve the field, used by Leeds United legends including Paul Reaney and David Batty, as an asset of community value.

This would have given the field, which has been largely unused for 15 years, additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.

But the council has turned down the application, saying there has been no formal or permitted use since the site was closed by land trustees Leeds Schools Sports Association (LSSA) 18 years ago.

A council report – which can be read in full here – states:

“The land does not have a current or recent previous use that furthers the social interests of the local community. There has been no formal or permitted use of the land since 2002, which is not considered to be the recent past.”

But the TV Harrison Community Action Group has reacted angrily to the decision, and today contacted the council to formally submit their 4,000-name petition to save the former sports pitches.

Campaigner Arron Lambert said:

“Our Labour-run Leeds City Council have shown themselves to be inept and out of touch at every turn BUT, most importantly, they take their tax–paying citizens completely for granted. I am Labour at heart but I will convince anyone I can to rid our city of this Labour clown-run circus.

“Let down doesn’t sum this up. How blatant land banking can be ignored by all powers is flabbergasting! We have proof on so many levels to back up our fight but all has been brushed under the carpet.

“LCC’s complacency is unreal. TVH was bought by us for our kids. This community won’t give up on Thomas Vernon Harrison’s beautiful legacy.”

Fellow campaigner Clare O’Keefe added:

“We can’t challenge the decision but we can and will complain about the process. The Charity Commission has not yet given permission to the LSSA to sell the asset that they hold in trust.

“The replacement land offered is in Garforth, which is as far away as you can get from Armley and Wortley. Without adequate and appropriate replacement land the playing field can’t be lost.

“We also want to let the Trustees know that any offer LCC make to the LSSA will be matched and exceeded by the community.

“If they have a spare moment with schools being shut, then Arron and the community won’t mind if they come down and help with the mowing and litter picking. It’s a nice safe place for socially distant exercise.

“This is a chance for the LSSA to do the right thing and work with the community to let West Leeds kids have their birthright back. It will be greatly to their benefit and credit. It will save the planet too.”

Earlier this month campaigners organised a charity football match on the site, which volunteers have cleared and restored after years of being abandoned. Informal junior games have also been played there over the past few months.

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