Last Thursday (7 July 2022) Councillors on the South & West Plans Panel considered the application to create a new 3G rugby pitch and three tennis courts at Cockburn School and it is far from clear that the application will eventually be approved, at least in its current form.
The meeting was considering a ‘position statement’ on the application (not deciding to grant or reject planning permission) and after two hours there were more questions than answers. The outcome was summed up the Area Planning Manager:
“Panel is not convinced this is the optimum solution and there’s a lot to be done by the applicants to convince the Panel otherwise.”
As we have previously reported, Cockburn School wish to build the pitches on part of the land that was formerly part of South Leeds Golf Club before it closed in 2019. The pitches are in part to make up for lost outdoor space that was taken up by a new block of classrooms that were built to accommodate extra pupils due to the lack of secondary school places in South Leeds. The school is also well below the Department of Education guidance on outdoor play space, having only 65% of the recommended space.
The discussion ranged over a number of issues with detailed information being sought. Councillors from all parties were concerned about a range of issues and asked for more detailed information before they could consider whether building a pitch in that location on Green Belt land was acceptable.
Biodiversity – the Council’s ecology officer has questioned the applicant’s claim that the scheme will produce a 21.95% increase in biodiversity. There are also concerns about micro plastics from the pitch, but the applicants say measures will be put in place to stop ‘rubber crumb’ from the pitch entering local watercourses.
Carbon capture – under the plans 38 mature trees will be lost, but these will be replaced by 130 ‘heavy standard’ (ie not saplings) trees planted elsewhere. This is over the 3 for 1 ratio that Leeds planning policy requires, but is it enough as young trees capture less carbon than mature trees?
Does it give back enough to the community. The site is currently used by members of the local community, if it taken away will the wider community benefit balance this?
Access to the historic cobbled bridleway – is the diversion route acceptable, could the path be accessible out of school hours?
Alternative solutions – have alternative solutions been fully explored including resolving the drainage of the existing grass pitch or building the new pitch over the grass pitch.
Community use of the new pitches. Is there a detailed plan of how this would work, managing the car park, access to school changing rooms, etc. The school currently uses the Council’s community use booking system, but it wasn’t clear who receives the income from bookings.
The applicants, Leeds City Council on behalf of Cockburn School, will need to address these issues with planning officers before the application comes back to the Panel for a decision.
You can watch the whole discussion on YouTube here, the item starts at 1hr 34mins into the meeting.