Last night (18 September 2014) 150 residents packed into the Beeston Parish Centre to discuss Aspiring Communities’ revised plans for the Ice Pak site on Barkly Road.
One man tried to disrupt the meeting by shouting “Don’t want it. Go away” as the architect explained the plans, but the majority in the room asked him to be quiet and allow debate. The building plans now relate mainly to the large white building on the site which will be converted into a sports hall, with a prayer room, classrooms and a multi faith centre above. Car parking has been expanded to allow for up to 170 cars.
The consultant from Amey explained how they were working closely with Leeds City Council Highways department on modelling traffic flows and that Highways would decide what measures should be put in place.
There were many questions from the floor, especially about traffic. Concerns were raised about traffic volumes, especially around Friday prayers. One resident asked “how will 170 cars get onto Barkly Road without snarling up Dewsbury Road and Old Lane?” Another said:
“Car parking (on site) is irrelevant, it’s traffic we’re worried about.”
There were many questions about the prayer room and whether the building was a mosque. Zeb Ahmed from Aspiring Communities explained that the building would be a community centre. He said this was a private investment by group of Muslims that want to help different sections of the community integrate.
One man said people in Beeston will never integrate, but the Secretary of Beeston Broncos junior rugby league club said that wasn’t true. They had white and Asian children in the team and he looked forward to using the sports hall, as there was little similar provision in the area since South Leeds Sports Centre had been demolished.
One lady then said “It doesn’t matter what you think of the prayer room, if you want to oppose this development you must concentrate on traffic, pollution, noise and light.”
After an hour of often heated debate, in which not all the speakers were able to finish their presentations, a large number of residents left the meeting after one (white) resident said:
“This is not about traffic, what I’ve heard in this room tonight is racism.”
The meeting carried on for a further half hour and heard about the work of the Advisory Committee that includes Hunslet Hawks, the Police and several other non-Muslim members. This committee oversees Aspiring Communities activities including the programme of summer games in Cross Flatts Park.
It was suggested that the building was in the wrong place and to look at sites at Elland Road or Stank Hall Barn, but Zeb Ahmed said:
“This is a community centre, to serve the community it needs to be in the heart of the community.”
He confirmed that the scheme, which will cost £4-6m, will use local building contractors and the funds had been raised by supporters in Leeds and around the UK. A leaflet with site plans has been distributed locally and is available on the Aspiring Communities website: www.aspiringcommunities.org/projects/
The plans are due to be submitted to Leeds City Council for planning permission shortly at which point residents can lodge their support or opposition to the project. The decision will then be made by Councillors on the Plans Panel.