Leeds public health chief intervenes in planning row over sports site development

Sports facilities within red line

Sports facilities within red line

Leeds’ chief health officer has stepped into the row over whether developers should be allowed to build homes and a shop on a former school’s sports facilities in Leeds.

Director of public health Dr Ian Cameron is recommending that senior councillors on Leeds City Council’s executive board sign up to the principle of retaining the facilities on Victoria Rd in Hyde Park for community use when they meet next Wednesday (12th December).

Campaigners, who include local councillors and MPs, have been fighting to block developers’ plans to build on the former Leeds Girls High School site, but up to last month council planning officers were saying the development couldn’t be opposed in principle.

Dr Cameron’s intervention may change all that.

New health Act

Public health director Dr Ian Cameron

Public health director Dr Ian Cameron

In a report to be discussed at next week’s meeting, the public health director details the health problems and “severe” lack of recreational space in the area, and raises the possibility that new legislation could allow councillors to object to the development on health grounds.

“The new Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HSCA) Section 12 states that each local authority must take such steps as it considers appropriate for improving the health of the people in its area,” the report says. “Planning policies and planning decisions are not exempted from this new mandatory requirement.”

“The provision of public recreational playing green-space is an important factor in the
health and wellbeing of local communities, particularly in the urban core of the city.
This is a material planning consideration and will form part of making a balanced
planning judgement,” the report adds.

So, if developers Chartford Homes and Holbeck Land submit a revised planning application for the site in the new year, it looks like the new Act could be used in a further attempt to block the development.

What’s not clear yet is how objections citing the new Act would stand up at a planning tribunal, should the application go that far.

Cash to buy the site?

lghs sports facilities 2It’s not clear either where the cash-strapped council, which announced today it was cutting £51.3m from its budget and shedding 400 jobs next year, would get the money to buy the site so it can be retained for community use. If it comes to that.

The report said that people living in the “disadvantaged” area around the site die younger than elsewhere in Leeds and suffer from higher than average levels of childhood obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease, conditions which can be prevented or controlled by increased physical activity. And the area suffers from a severe lack of open space for the public to use for recreation.

The report takes pains to point out that any future planning application for the site will be considered by the local planning panel on its merits.

“Any support that Executive Board may give to the future use of Victoria Road for recreational purposes is separate to and does not restrict the role of the Local Planning Authority,” it says.

“Whilst recognising the separate role of the local planning authority the Executive Board is recommended to support the principle of retaining the Victoria Road playing fields for community use due to the important role that green-space provision can make to health and wellbeing in a community which is acknowledged as having a deficiency in sports facilities and pitches,” it concludes.

For the background to the planning application thus far see here and here.

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5 Responses to Leeds public health chief intervenes in planning row over sports site development

  1. Phil says:

    “The provision of public recreational playing green-space is an important factor in the
    health and wellbeing of local communities, particularly in the urban core of the city”.

    Utter nonsense,

  2. freedomnow66 says:

    As much as I agree in principal to preserving the last of the green spaces in urban areas to the ever creeping tide of tarmac and concrete, who wouldn’t??? But I have to laugh at the reasons given!! Namely people have no where to exercise!!! Lol really, how about these people stop shovelling, high carbohydrates into there faces and restrict there diet instead of there exercise!!! How about walk to the shops etc…. Why do we make excuses for people instead of telling them the truth!!! Ure fat and heading for a heart attack if u keep up the alcohol , cigarettes and take aways!!!

    • The Gibbon says:

      Have to say I agree – Hyde Park/Woodhouse Moor is a very short walk up the road. If locals can’t be bothered to walk 10mins, I very much doubt they’re the types who will jump at the chance for physical activity on this small piece of grass.

  3. tonyls6 says:

    @freedomnow66 & @The Gibbon,

    Woodhouse Moor is one of the most intensely used green spaces in Leeds, if not the UK, and is, in any event, constantly under threat of some sort of development or other.

    Kids need green spaces to play in NEAR THEIR HOMES, and ANYTHING which encourage people to excercise is a good thing. The economic benefits of healthier adult lives, set against the short term revenue of a land sale, are clear and obvious.

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