The planning application to provide new sports pitches at Cockburn School in Beeston looks set to be approved, albeit with strict conditions, as it returns to Plans Panel for a third time on Thursday (29 September 2022).
The controversial proposal to build a new full size 3G rugby / football pitch and tennis courts came about as part of the school’s expansion to cope with the growing need for secondary school places in South Leeds. The school currently has a 34% shortfall in outdoor sports space compared with Department for Education guidelines.
The pitches are to be built on part of the land previously occupied by South Leeds Golf Club (SLGC) which has now been incorporated into Middleton Park.
A position statement on the plans were first discussed by Councillors on the South & West Plans Panel on 7 July, this was followed by a full debate on the plans lasting over three and a half hours on 1 September.
Objectors have raised a range of issues including the loss of amenity and level access route into the park from Beeston, the loss of a historic footpath, concerns about pollution to the nearby ancient woodland ecosystem from the 3G pitch and the loss of 38 mature trees.
Alan Shaw from Friends of Middleton Park told the Panel:
“Our key objection is that this development will permanently change the land … Building a 3G pitch will require significant landscaping.
“The 3G pitch may look green but it will be devoid of life. The site is currently full of life with multiple species of butterflies, insects and birds identified. How can changing a thriving tree lined meadow to a plastic fenced off pitch be adding species biodiversity?”
Supporters of the scheme point out that children attending Cockburn School deserve proper sports facilities on site, that the pitches will take up less than 10% of the SLGC land, which was not publicly accessible until the club closed; and that trees will be replaced on a three-for-one basis in line with planning policies.
David Gurney, Executive Headteacher at Cockburn Multi-academy Trust told the Panel:
“Cockburn is described as a school working in challenging circumstances by the DfE with high levels of deprivation and the children who attend the school are part of the local community. They are the future of the local community. Cockburn is an outstanding school, only achieved by 2.7% of schools nationally, and if we want to still deliver an outstanding education, we need good to outstanding facilities for the children. And we’re only asking for what the children deserve.”
Cllr Andrew Scopes (Labour Beeston & Holbeck) and Cllr Sharon Burke (Labour, Middleton Park) made a written comment to the Panel stating:
“This is a really difficult decision with really valid points on both sides. We appreciate the time and effort that the residents have put into the consultation process, which we have read and we understand their concerns, which we sympathise with. However, on balance, our view is that the needs of the children of South Leeds must be provided for.”
The Panel voted to defer their decision to allow additional conditions to be drawn up around environmental management and biodiversity monitoring, construction environmental management, a community use agreement for the facilities and an end-of-life strategy for the 3G pitch. Officers are recommending approval of the planning application subject to these and other conditions.
Ther South & West Plans Panel meets on Thursday 29 September at 1:30pm at the Civic Hall and the meeting will be livestreamed via the Council website.
You can read the full report to Panel here
You can watch the 1 September meeting here