Further row looms over sports facilities as plans finally approved for controversial Leeds site

The prolonged row over the future of the former Leeds Girls High School site in Leeds came to an end today when plans for housing development on the land were finally approved.

Councillors voted 6-3 in favour of approving developer The Morley House Trust’s revised proposal to build 94 homes on the 2.44 hectare site just north of Hyde Park.

The site’s future was the subject of a government planning inspectorate enquiry last year after councillors rejected a series of earlier plans to build a mix of over 100 apartments and townhouses on the site last year.

Today’s approval comes despite a range of objections to the development lodged by local community groups, and means that the fight to save the school’s old tennis courts for community use has now finally been lost.

But it’s not the end of the story. There’s a further row brewing over the school’s playing field and sports facilities which are located over the road (more of which below).

Worth noting that the plans show that sufficient land has been set aside on the north of the site to accommodate any future widening of Headingley Lane for the new trolley-bus scheme that’s planned.

Call for “creative solution” to affordable housing provision

As part of the deal approved today, the developers are going to be making a £200,000 contribution to affordable housing – equivalent to five houses on site (5% of the total).

In an unusual move councillors formally called on the council to investigate the possibility of working with interested third parties to come up with a “creative solution” that could see that money spent on bringing run down or empty “multi-occupancy” homes in the area brought into family use.

One of the groups they’ll no doubt be talking to will be the Headingley Development Trust, a community group that’s been promoting the use of developers’ (Section 106) contributions to provide homes that are affordable for long-term residents to rent or buy.

Further row looming over sports facilities

Leeds Girls High School main building top centre, Chestnut Ave sports facilities bottom left

The loss of the tennis courts was brought up again at today’s meeting, in part because there’s another row looming over plans to build homes and a retail store on the site of the school’s sports facilities on nearby Chestnut Avenue.

Campaigners are calling for the school’s sports hall and swimming pool – which haven’t been used since 2008 when Leeds Girls High School merged with The Grammar School at Leeds on a new site five miles away in Alwoodley – and a playing field to be made available to a local community in desperate need of recreational facilities.

Speaking at today’s meeting, Cllr John Illingworth (Kirkstall, Labour) said there was a danger that the council’s acceptance of the loss of the tennis courts could set a precedent for future planning applications, such as that submitted for the Chestnut Avenue site.

The council was under an obligation, he said, to come forward with ways of improving the health of people in deprived communities like Hyde Park, and the provision of recreational sites through the planning process had a role to play in meeting that responsibility.

It was suggested at the meeting that the city’s Director of Public Health could be formally consulted over such planning applications.

In a report circulated to the meeting Cllr Illingworth noted that the Council is committed to a policy of ensuring that the health of the city’s poorest residents improves the fastest. Hyde Park is one of those areas that is “severely deficient” in recreational open space and includes a large South Asian population that is “most at risk”, the report said.

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