Cockburn sports pitches: a threat to nature

I would like to respond to a post by the Chair of Trustees of Cockburn School about the objections to the proposed development on Middleton Park land of a new 3G sports pitch and tennis courts, and would like to take the opportunity to respond and refute the points made.

I do not think most objectors would disagree that Cockburn School MAT has taken on a bulge of pupils at the behest of Leeds City Council, which has required the building of additional classrooms to accommodate the students. The Chair ignores the fact however that the current school playing pitch at the east end of the site needs redevelopment. The school have admitted on several occasions that this pitch gets waterlogged. The community’s point is that, why build another pitch without first resolving the difficulties of using the pitch that is already there. The Chair ignores this.

I do not think most objectors would disagree with the Chair’s comment that the ancient woodland is not (immediately or directly) affected … in that it is not threatened with removal or destruction by the development. However, the woodland area, which is both classified as ‘Ancient Woodland’, and ‘Local Nature Reserve’, WILL be impacted by use of the additional plastic pitch. The school are anticipating that the pitch will be used up to 9pm at night, disrupting local bird populations and ground nesting mammals. The pitch will have additional lighting installed – I am aware that this isn’t in the plan, but provision has been made and if this development is to be successful it will have to be used to its full potential. The light pollution will impact the woodland and LNR, and the surrounding meadowland, even if it is screened as anticipated in the plans.

The Chair dismisses the impact on the Public Right Of Way (207), which runs alongside the current school boundary. He is dismissive of the path suggesting that it is no interest, is not used, and is not even ancient. I think most objectors would wholly disagree with this sentiment. Why should we be so dismissive of local history? The path / route has been in use since at least 1852, was once a cobbled lane, and once led to one of the two local farms (the original Parkside Farm). It IS used by the local community and the community think it should be preserved and kept in use, no matter that the official PROW could be diverted. Incidentally, this proposed diversion adds elevation and distance to this path thereby making it a less attractive proposition.

The Chair finishes by suggesting that we in the local community should not object to the ‘loss’ of only 1.5 hectares of land, when Middleton Park has more than two hundred. I would say that this very much depends on the situation and what 1.5 hectares are being lost. The community and most objectors would probably agree that there MIGHT be remit for additional school sports pitches if the land were more suitable, but in our view this expansion just doesn’t add up. The park loses valuable meadowland, and the development will be directly adjacent to a LNR and Ancient Woodland.

Finally, I note that the Chair fails to mention or defend many of the other comments of objectors around the development and laying of a plastic pitch that will impact local watercourses (microplastic from rainwater run-off), and will need regular replacement (every five years), whilst being no-recyclable (with the exception of one company in Europe). I would very much hope that Leeds City Council and the school consider the plastic contamination and need for disposal / recycling in any decision made on introducing another plastic pitch into LCC school maintenance responsibilities.


This post was written by Alan Shaw, Chair of Trustees Friends of Middleton Park

You can read the planning application in full by clicking here. Please note that comments on the application have now closed.

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3 Replies to “Cockburn sports pitches: a threat to nature”

  1. i must agree with the points raised on the proposed pitches the footpath is used regularly by both walkers and dog walkers

  2. Can we remind readers that you can still comment on this planning application until Tuesday 14 June.
    The reference on the Leeds City Council planning portal is 22/01376/FU
    The development privatises public space, destroys the openness of greenbelt, destroys habitat including good hedgehog habitat in land that is designated as part of Leeds Wildlife Habitat network and added to Middleton Park in 2020. Nearly 40 mature trees will be felled. It fragments habitat and dumps water containing microplastic pollution and chemicals into the nature reserve. It destroys a foraging site/food for bats and birds. It causes noise, dust and light pollution. It creates an urban heat island effect and increases a risk of flooding. It closes a well used historic footpath into the woods and replaces it with an inferior version. Enough is enough. We all have to do our bit for the climate and the school is no exception. We need to repair and share existing resources.

  3. I live directly backing onto the playing field and while at first I objected I have seen the field used to the benefit of children and community however this is not used to it’s capacity day or night and don’t understand why another is needed
    As for the nature aspect we used to (before the current pitch) have a family of foxes living in the hedgerow for years but sadly not anymore the impact on nature should most definitely be considered

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