Has South Leeds Been Forgotten?

Have you heard the news?

North Leeds is to get a Wellbeing Centre – wow that must be costing a bit – in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if it costs about £30M.  Lucky north Leeds I say.

Hang on – what about having a Wellbeing Centre in south Leeds – in fact don’t we have one of the most deprived areas in the country there, aren’t people the most unfit and unhealthy and isn’t there a lot of youth unemployment and disaffection all around? and isn’t it where a huge proportion of children can’t swim by the time they leave primary school and aren’t there at least half a dozen of those already – and wait a minute – didn’t I hear we need more?

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to  have somewhere that is in walking distance of many homes, which can support “when a health or social care need first arises”, which can help “people with greater needs such as a physical or learning disability or a mental health problem” which gives access to “personalised services” as well as decent leisure facilities, swimming lessons as well as fun swims and lane swimming, squash courts, badminton courts, yoga, martial arts, majorettes, youth clubs and so on?  Somewhere close to new mixed housing developments, where the population is on the increase and a large proportion of the children, young people, their parents and grandparents do not have access to spaces for clubs and social activities, sports and leisure clubs without having to get on a bus or in a car..

Maybe it could incorporate those new fangled things called “hubs”, “meeting areas”, “multi-activity rooms”, “studio”, ” Bodyline gym”, oh yes … and “a 25 metre pool, a teaching pool and a cafe” – I know – what about a “garden area” – easy access to childcare, and why don’t we make it environmentally as low carbon as possible? After all one of the most green of green buildings in Europe is in South Leeds – surely they could give us a tip or two?

Oh no – just realised – we can’t – we don’t have a site or a building or anything that fits the bill – oh hang on – what about South Leeds Sports Centre?  Its close to major routes for extra access to passing trade – that’ll help with the running costs.  Its right in the middle of an area of housing where there are loads of families who need access to all the above quickly and easily.  Actually, come to think of it, aren’t there are plans to build more new housing close by, in fact its even close to the city centre so lunchtime and after work activities for city workers could take off.  And even better than that – there’s already a pool there – and a teaching pool – there are childcare facilities very close by, there’s already a multi-activity room and an excellent sports hall, oh and some squash courts plus room for a gym.

Oh and something else – there are playing fields around it which are already utilised by local young people to a small extent – we could build on that – and with a spend of a fraction of that £30M could be re-fitted and refurbished to cover all the above… well, what are we waiting for?

Oh yes – I know the council don’t want it – hang on – no the old council didn’t want it – but phew just remembered the new one were all for keeping it open so problem solved.. oh hang on – another hitch – money .. well if investment can be found for a brand new very expensive build for the lucky inhabitants of the tree-lined, sprawling avenues of North Leeds it must be possible to find the £3M it would probably cost to get the project up and running in the south.

Hmm, seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me.. we don’t want to look back and see we’ve missed a trick.. I must remember where there’s a will, there’s a way, we’ve got the will – we just seem to have got a bit diverted along the way somehow.. where’s my GPS??

Sally Cieslik
Splashback – Campaigning to keep South Leeds Sports Centre open

This post originally featured on www.guardian.co.uk/leeds