Holbeck Sports Hub: have your say

On the 5 November 2023 South Leeds Life published details of new planning applications. The proposed Holbeck Sports Hub was one of these new applications.

It will consist of 3 full size 3G pitches plus two multi-use game areas (MUGAs), a cafe and a GP surgery. There will be 294 parking spaces. Parking provision is above what is expected when current parking guidelines are applied. Thirty-nine healthy mature trees will be felled.

This major development is particularly controversial because each of the pitches will contain around 120 tonnes of rubber crumb microplastics. The sports pitch infill is the largest source of (intentionally added) microplastic pollution in the European environment.

Rubber crumb infill is now restricted in EU countries due to the significant environmental pollution and human health concerns. An 8 year transition period for current pitch owners to switch to less harmful alternatives has already started. This will be followed by a complete ban. The UK is slower to legislate than the EU but is taking similar action. Intentionally added microplastics are one of UK REACH’s top priorities for restriction.

Councillor Helen Hayden, Executive Member for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure admitted earlier this month that the pitches were controversial. Last year Andrew Watterson, Professor of Health at Stirling University, warned Leeds City Council not to purchase rubber crumb pitches because of the significant environmental and human health impacts. Despite this warning the council has pressed ahead with more developments. The Design and Access Statement for Holbeck Sports Hub cites only one out of date study to evaluate the risk to human health and ignores the environmental impact completely.

There has been no publicity from the council regarding the planning application since it was validated. There are no social media posts encouraging local people to engage with the planning process and ‘Have Your Say’. In fact there is no mention of the application at all on the social media accounts of the Beeston and Holbeck ward councillors.

Subsequently the application to date has received only 3 public comments on the planning portal. It seems the council’s low key approach is working.

There are newer alternatives to outdated rubber crumb 3G pitches such as hybrid and no infill pitches. However, since the Matthew Murray site is a rewilded site, natural grass pitches are likely the best option. Four species of red listed birds of conservation concern have been recorded at the site including Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Mistle Thrush and Starling. There are also seven amber list species including Bullfinch, Dunnock, Sparrowhawk, Common Whitethroat, Woodpigeon and Wren. Other breeding species on site include Robins, Blue Tits, Chiffchaffs, Long Tailed Tits, Blackbirds and Blackcaps. Kestrels have also been spotted over the site.

Making more space for nature close to home by enhancing the biodiversity of this site further will have a better health and well-being outcome for more people in Holbeck than 3 plastic football pitches ever will! Indeed It seems the pitches will be chiefly marketed to players who do not even live in the area. A fact evidenced by the huge over-sized car park.

So I urge the people of Holbeck to have your say and comment on the application by Friday 8 December. In my opinion the site is more useful as freely accessible urban green space for local people to enjoy for informal recreation and nature.

One or two natural grass pitches could be blended into this space. The proposed development on the other hand brings significant pollution to the area. This includes a huge urban heat island effect that will impact the health of all residents but particularly the elderly and those with asthma or other respiratory illnesses.


South Leeds Life has published information about the proposals here and here. You can read and comment on the full planning application here.


This post was written by Suzy Grace

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10 Replies to “Holbeck Sports Hub: have your say”

  1. Have your say and we will ignore it! It’s a matter of “courtesy” that the council ask people for opinions objections etc they have already decided what is happening without public opinion

    1. We can not afford to keep plasticising over natural surfaces. Real grass managed professionally is safer, healthier, cheaper and fully recyclable. Plastic pollutes, overheats and prevents natural lifecycles while depriving wildlife. Please wake up to the harm from hundreds of thousands of these hubs

  2. A freely accessible green space is already available in Holbeck. A new one will attract the usual suspects and cause misery for local people. This looks fine to me. It’s an absolute slag heap at the moment. Get it built.

    1. The issue is with the use of environmentally unfriendly plastic grass. Are you suggesting that the plastic pitches themselves are a deterrent to these aforementioned “usual suspects”?

  3. Is it a coincindence that something which has the potential of harming the environment and health of local residents is once again in the pipeline for the Holbeck area.
    Many people who attended Matthew Murray School between the 1960s and 2004 would like to see something safe and beneficial done with the land that once housed it. However, installing something that could add to the pollution that the nearby motorway and dual carriage way provide would be the last thing on their mind.
    I wonder if the councillors, voting and pushing this project through, would like to have the same pollution on their doorstep?
    I believe that more needs to be done to safeguard the area and the people who raise their families there, because there are alternatives to the proposed materials.
    Obviously, the council has committed itself to a build on the Matthew Murray site, but perhaps an independent investigation into the materials being used should take place before the planning permission approval is rammed home.
    By the way, it should be made easier to leave a comment on the local government planning permission page, but perhaps, allegedly, this may effect the plans of those who are meant to work for the good of the people of Leeds.

    1. With 15 million levelling up funding for Holbeck, I think the third rate materials for the pitches should be changed. Surely they have no excuses left to justify choosing tyre waste. Natural grass, hybrid, no infill and alternative cork and coconut husk infill all available to them and they choose old tyres! They were asked earlier in the year to set up a special scrutiny meeting to discuss the implications of plastic pitches and look at the alternatives. This is necessary because once at planning application stage the pitches get passed on planning considerations such as the Cockburn one. However, they have resisted any attempt to get round a table to do this.

  4. As a previous comment says the Council have already decided and and asking for comments from Holbeck residents is a box ticking exercise the plastic pitches were brought up at the public meeting also how will this lower traffic in the area with a massive car park for this facility all these concerns were quickly brushed over by the people hosting the meeting .
    Yes even though it is a bit of a mess due to lazy people fly tipping it is a wildlife haven with bird of prey ,foxes ,bats etc .
    As with the latest article in the evening post on the recreations where no mention of the snapped off saplings and dumped rubbish if the sports facility is built it will be hailed as a great success and all problems such as traffic , anti social behaviour etc will be all in the imagination of residents .
    Remember the managed red light zone fiasco these councillors have no idea about actually living in Holbeck and are very good at ignoring anybody who disagrees with them .
    Meanwhile drug and prostitution issues and anti social behaviour continue ?

  5. How do you have your say and comment on the application as I went to the public meeting and there was no one there from the council so I e-mailed the address I was given with my opinions but had no response. I was told 200 parking spaces which due to Brown lane been a dead end is going to cause more pollution to the area, I already have more pollution outside my house due to the road been blocked of at my end so every one is turning round outside my house sometimes doing eight point turns. I am totally against the plastic pitches and cannot see the locals from the estate using the gym. We already have a Dr’s surgery (Shafton Lane) which due to lack of staff, Drs ect is often closed and when opened only partly used. What the area needs is a proper space for Children to play and enjoy nature. Not just for Football but to run round and let of steam and relax. The site yes is a bit of a mess but if cleaned up and made into a proper nature park incorporating the nature already their. (Not just a largish expanse of grass like Holbeck Moor) where children could learn about nature and then maybe have a bit of respect for the natural environment.

  6. Should have rebuilt Matthew Murray instead of Cockburn being the feeder school for Holbeck where a mountain of money has been thrown at it for again plastic pitches and the destruction of the local area once again totally ignored by LCC. south Leeds is overpopulated and unsustainable thanks to the planning board for south Leeds non of whom live in south leeds.

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