Campaigners have presented a 4,219 signature petition wish to preserve a playing field earmarked for housing on Oldfield Lane in Wortley.
The TV Harrison field – nicknamed Wortley’s Wembley by locals – 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.
Its illustrious past saw it play host to former Leeds United starts such as John Charles, Brian Deane and Paul Reaney.
It has been left unused and overgrown for much of the past 14 years, with the council earmarking the site for up to 50 local authority houses two years ago.
It has since been put back into use by local people working together and is being used for informal and unauthorised community activities such as football matches, Saturday running, half term activities for children and community gardening.
Submitting the petition to senior council officials via e-mail this week, the TV Harrison Community Action Group said:
“While we all want to see more social housing, the LCC have many other sites which are already publicly owned and are for sale to private developers.
“Armley and Farnley and Wortley Wards are deprived in outdoor sports provision, Farnley and Wortley by many hectares.
“The petition has the full support of the Muslim community and the Sikh community in Armley. The Methodist churches in Leeds 12 give full support. Our elected councillors oppose development and give full support.
“The community plan to restore the six netball pitches and have already restored Wortley Wembley, a full-size football pitch. The community has a business plan in place and will work together to provide affordable opportunities – to lead active lives in Leeds 12.”
Campaigners in Wortley are continuing to gather names on the petition.
But in a letter to the campaigners, council officers this week said the ‘silent voices’ of local people in urgent housing need were not represented in the petition. The letter said:
“The broader situation remains that Leeds has a critical shortage of affordable housing, and this is now one of our priority areas for improvement under the our “Best City Plan”.
“There are more than 600 people in the Farnley and Wortley ward who have submitted an application for rehousing, and over a quarter of these are in urgent housing need, being on the highest levels of assessed priority. This could include:
• A severely overcrowded household which requires at least more two bedrooms than they currently have.
• A household that has no legal right to remain in the property they are in, hence being at imminent risk of homelessness.
• A household where children are living in substandard privately rented accommodation, and;
• A household where someone’s medical needs or disability makes the current accommodation entirely unsuitable and they have been identified as having an urgent medical need to be moved.
“It is the silent voices of these local people in urgent housing need that are not represented in the petition. While we understand the strength of some resident’s feelings about the site, Leeds City council’s intention to develop the site derives from the need to balance on a wider range of differing priorities across the city.
“The new housing would be allocated under a local lettings policy, which means that people in need from the local Farnley and Wortley area would be prioritised for these homes. This will offer a real opportunity to improve the living conditions for these families.
“As previously explained, there is a shortage of available land to build on across Leeds. We have identified only half the land we need for our affordable housing programme. The land previously suggested by the Action Group is not for sale or available and it is not appropriate or feasible to develop housing on the Wortley Recreation Ground.
“The council met the Save TV Harrison Group last year to listen to their concerns and have since responded to a significant amount of similar queries from a small number of individuals. We have responded to each query received however we note that few new issues are now being raised.
“As previously advised, a further opportunity to object to or comment on the proposed development will arise once the planning application has been submitted and validated.”