Councillors decided this morning to launch an internal investigation into the manner in which the West Park Centre on Spen Lane was closed by council officials citing safety concerns over the electrical system.
The launch of the investigation by one of the council’s watchdog scrutiny committees will almost certainly mean that a decision on the long-term future of the centre – which had been expected to be made by the council’s executive in February – will now have to be postponed.
The investigation was called for by local councillors in north-west Leeds, who have voiced suspicions that the reasons for the closure were manufactured and that council officers want to see the centre sold off for a housing development.
Left to deteriorate
The local councillors have also challenged the detail of an “independent” assessment carried out by consultants Arup for the council last month which put the cost of carrying out urgent repairs to the building at nearly £1m.
Built in the 1950s, the former school building has needed money spent on it for years. For example, back in 2009 a council report said the centre’s electrical installation was already in a poor condition “and may constitute a fire risk”. But it appears that the investment needed hasn’t been forthcoming.
So the investigation launched today is also going to look at why the centre has been left to deteriorate over the years.
Up until its closure the centre was being used by up to 2,000 Leeds residents every week. It has been home to learning disability groups, the council’s schools arts service, orchestras and choirs, community groups, trades unions and the city’s newspaper for the blind.