MP’s Notebook: Cladding, sex work, Health For All and Middleton Park

The recent fire at the Blue residential block by Granary Wharf was a chilling reminder of the risk of fire in high rise buildings. This block has some cladding problems, although it seems they were not involved in the fire. Thankfully the West Yorkshire Fire Service arrived extremely quickly, put it out and everyone was evacuated safely.

As part of the campaign to get the Government to protect leaseholders from having to bear costs they are not responsible for, the National Cladding Campaign recently asked people to take photographs of themselves holding placards with the amounts of money that they fear they will be asked to pay. The sums are eye-watering and completely unaffordable, and we will be carrying on with our campaign for a fair outcome.

I’ve written before on the subject of on-street sex work in Holbeck and what should be done about it. Several years ago, the council and the police set up the managed approach with the aim of trying to reduce the impact on residential areas, and it’s had a bit of a chequered history since then.

A while ago, I proposed to the Council that it ought to carry out an independent review so that everyone could have their say. Recently, after considering the results of that review and the views expressed by local people, councillors and myself, Leeds City Council has decided that the existing managed approach will come to an end. I welcome this decision.

The scheme has, in effect, been in suspension since the start of the Covid pandemic, and scrapping the permitted hours and defined area, cracking down on soliciting by men and making use of public space protection orders reflects what many in the community have been calling for and will be widely supported.

It’s also good to see that the dedicated police support, the use of CCTV, the cleansing arrangements and help for women to exit on-street sex work will be kept in place. In all the discussions I’ve had with many people about this, everyone acknowledges that there has never been a simple solution to this problem, and we will have to see how the new approach works out. However, this announcement represents a step forward.

I had the great pleasure of joining the Health for All AGM recently. I say joining because it was done over Zoom, but that didn’t take away from having the chance to celebrate the wonderful work that this community-led organisation does in South Leeds. During the pandemic, it kept in contact with people in different ways, providing food parcels, welfare telephone calls and advice, information and support. This year, Health for All celebrates its 30th anniversary and I want to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful Pat McGeever, her staff team and all the volunteers for everything they do on behalf of our community.

And finally, to the delights of Middleton Park. A few weeks ago, my wife and I spent a Saturday afternoon there in the late spring sunshine. The park is one of the jewels in the crown of Leeds, but I suspect there are many people living in the city who have never visited it. When they do come, as I hope they will, they will find that it’s enormous, has grassland and majestic ancient woodland, a café and visitors’ centre, a bandstand, a lake and so much history. Middleton was mentioned in the Domesday book, and at the northern end of park is an earthwork – said to date from 1204 – marking the boundary between Middleton and Beeston following a bitter dispute between William de Grammary and Adam de Beeston.

And, of course, there are reminders and remnants of centuries of coal mining. This history has been detailed in an excellent book entitled Coal Mining in Middleton Park: An Archaeological Investigation by the Middleton Park Community Archaeological Project which has added greatly to our understanding of this important part of the park’s industrial past. The Friends of Middleton Park do a wonderful job in looking after this unique place and if you want to find out more about their activities, then do visit their Facebook page which is full of useful information and fascinating history.