Leeds City Council is pressing on with its plans to decide the long-term fate of a popular community centre in the north of the city despite an internal enquiry having been launched into the centre’s sudden closure last November.
Senior councillors meeting later this week (Friday 15th February) are being asked to endorse the idea of pursuing two options for the centre – both of which involve demolition work and selling off council land at the site for development.
There’s been controversy for years around the the future of the West Park Centre on Spen Lane, which up until its closure was being used by some 2,000 people every week for a range of city-wide and local activities.
Built in the 1950s as a school, the building has needed money spending on it for years, but the cash hasn’t been forthcoming.
Suspicions have been voiced for years that council officials have wanted to sell the site off to developers, and that a policy of “planned neglect” has been in operation.
No mention of internal enquiry
When local councillors challenged the closure decision and secured an internal council enquiry into how it was taken, it had been thought that the council’s leadership might delay pressing on with making long-term plans for the centre.
But there’s no reference to the enquiry in the report that’s been prepared for next week’s council leaders’ meeting.
Option A: demolish a little less than half (44%) of the building at a cost of £373,000, carry out £1.15m backlog maintenance on what’s left, and sell off the cleared site for between £2m and £2.4m
(the council report says 40% of the building wasn’t being used prior to its closure – a figure that’s being challenged)
Option B: demolish the whole building at a cost of £627,000; build a new, smaller centre for local community use in one part of the site (at a cost of £700k to £1m) and sell off the rest for development for £2.9m
Option A leaves the council some £500k in profit, Option B leaves it with around £1.3m in the bank, minus the cost of finding permanent new homes for the city-wide council services that were using the building till it was shut down.
Other options were looked at, but are not being recommended by council officers.
They include retaining the whole building, which would require £2.2m for backlog maintenance work – “significantly more” for full refurbishment. But there’s no cash allocated for it in the budget, the report notes.
Selling off the whole site is another option that appears to have been discounted, though the report doesn’t go into much detail as to why: the sale could fetch around £3.5m for the council’s coffers, but would leave the local area without its community facilities.
Main user not coming back?
They’ll take little comfort from the news in the report that the centre’s principal council user – Education Leeds’ music and arts service for schools, ArtForms – is apparently working successfully from its “temporary” new home at City of Leeds School in Woodhouse.
“…the music service would like to continue delivering (its service) from the school,” the report says.