Cockburn sports pitches granted planning permission

Cockburn School’s controversial planning application to build a new full size 3G artificial football/rugby pitch and tennis courts was approved by Councillors on the South & West Plans Panel on 29 September 2022.

This was the third time the proposal had come to the Panel after Councillors had insisted that all the conditions, normally delegated to officers to draft, should come back for their approval.

A last minute email from Cllr Jonathon Pryor, Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education, urging support for the application caused concerns for a number of members, but the legal officer assured them that it should be treated as any other representation relating to the proposal.

The plans are controversial because they top be built on land that was formerly part of South Leeds Golf Club and was in the Green Belt. However, Cockburn School is 35% short of outdoor space having expanded in order to accommodate additional students from South Leeds, including building over its tennis courts.

Amongst the approved conditions attached to the approval, Councillors insisted that the Community Use Agreement for the new facilities was limited to daylight hours only.

Reacting to the decision, David Gurney, Executive Headteacher of the Cockburn MAT said:

“I am very pleased that this has been passed by the plans panel and it will allow us now to deliver the sports provision at Cockburn School that we so desperately need. Having taken on more students over recent years to support the local community, our current sports facilities fall 35% short of government recommendations. Ofsted’s ‘Outstanding in all areas’ judgement in February 2022 recognised that ‘Cockburn School is at the heart of the community’ and year on year the school has been oversubscribed and in high demand for prospective parents and carers. These new facilities will not only benefit the children at the school but also other children and adults across south Leeds. We are most grateful to all of the councillors and members of the community who have supported this proposal during the planning application process.

“We believe sports is really beneficial for young people. It helps their mental health, their fitness and it tackles obesity. It’s really important.

“Because of the delay in reaching a decision, the building won’t be able to start until next year as we are heading into the winter months. But it will hopefully be ready for September 2023 in time for our new Year 7 intake.”

However, Alan Shaw, Chair of Trustees at Friends of Middleton Park, who had opposed the application commented:

“The Friends are obviously very disappointed in the decision of the Plans Panel in allowing the Council and Cockburn Multi-Academy Trust to build a plastic pitch on Greenbelt land. This piece of Greenbelt will no longer be at all green and the park in our view has now lost much of a beautiful meadowland that is already (in the short space of time it has been available). We feel that this decision flies in the face of Leeds City Council’s sustainability and carbon neutral policies – in spite of what is claimed to be additional diversity added by the screening trees and bushes to be planted. How can putting in a plastic pitch add diversity to a piece of land?

“We feel that the school should make more use of the land that it already has before building another expensive white elephant that will be expensive to maintain in the long term – as there are different and potentially more expensive maintenance requirements for plastic pitches, and they also need fully replacing every 7-10 years.

“We are also very concerned about the use of rubber crumb as part of the construction of the pitch. Rubber crumb comes in the form of small balls that cushion the playing surface. These rubber pellets are easily spread from the pitch and in our view can easily leach into local watercourses in the Local Nature Reserve. The pellets are made from crushed up tyres, which contain all sorts of dangerous chemicals – imagine those getting into the nature reserve. The developers say that there will be filters and barriers to stop this happening…but we don’t believe that these will stop all contamination.

“We are also objecting to the potential loss of use and access to the heritage asset of Public Right of Way 207 that currently runs alongside the current school boundary – part of a separate planning application.”

And the Save South Leeds Former Golf Course Community Group said:

“We are hugely disappointed that the council are enabling the academy to pursue selfish ambition to expand their site and destroy precious green space, trees and wildlife habitat. This will pollute the neighbourhood and nature reserve with microplastics and toxic rubber crumb. The council’s planning team made absolutely no effort to bring about behaviour change at the Academy to meet the city’s climate goals. The councillors who supported this scheme are virtue signalling on Climate Emergency. Their actions speak louder than words. A House of Lords report published last week shows young people are not finding information on climate change at school. This is clearly the case at Cockburn. We hope that parents and children will find out more about plastic pitches and take on the task that the council failed to do. Please tell Cockburn academy now that you will not play on plastic and tyre waste and demand the safest and healthiest playing surface of natural grass.”


Whilst you’re here, can we ask a favour?

South Leeds Life is published by a not-for-profit social enterprise. We keep our costs as low as possible but we’ve been hit by increases in the print costs for our monthly newspaper – up 50% so far this year.

Could you help support local community news by making a one off donation, or even better taking out a supporters subscription?

Donate here, or sign up for a subscription at

Thank you for your support.

3 Replies to “Cockburn sports pitches granted planning permission”

  1. I’m glad that this project has finally gone through. While I accept change isn’t for everyone at least we can afford our local you people additional facilities. The focus of the opposition seems to be aimed at the rubber crumb on the pitches. There is more risk from the increased injury rate vs that of grass than any other potential dangers. Artificial and hybrid pitches are now becoming the norm in the professional game with even our beloved local team down the road sporting a hybrid mix for their ground. I only hope the school can carry out the work with minimal disruption to its neighbours and that the school reaches out to community groups to also use the extended facilities.

  2. Life expectancy of 10yrs at the most. Cost of replacement £250,000. Thats £25,000 a year upkeep? Must be a rich school or are the council tax payers going to end up paying. Add to this all pupils wanting to use this pitch will have to fork out for another pair of football boots as normal ones destroy it and trainers make you slide on it. More expense for people on a tight budget… I would lay money on it that in about 8yrs they will be asking planning permission to put something else there because its too expensive to replace and too toxic to keep. In my view When the council can build a brand new Ruth Gorse with lots less outdoor area its totally wrong on so many levels to pander to this academe. I for one keep asking WHY?

Comments are closed.