New sports hub will be a champion asset for Holbeck

A former school site in Leeds is set to be transformed into a state-of-the-art community sports hub.

Proposals for the new development – on land in Holbeck once occupied by Matthew Murray High School – were approved yesterday (6 June 2024) at a meeting of Leeds City Council’s south and west plans panel.

The plans had been to public, in person, consultations in Holbeck and received positive feedback from local residents and amendments made following the consultation, including a reduction of the number of pitches to make space for more natural environment.

The plans were due to be passed back in April so work could start as soon as possible, however Cllr Ed Carlisle (Green Hunslet & Riverside) from the neighbouring ward, following pressure from environmental activists from outside the area, forced it to plans panel.

Work is now expected to start next year on the council-led project, which will include three full-size artificial grass football pitches, two multi-use games areas and a two-storey building with facilities such as changing rooms, a gym and a café.

The building will also be home to a GP surgery and pharmacy, with these services contributing to the wide-ranging health and wellbeing benefits that the development as a whole will bring for local residents.

Other elements of the scheme will include the creation of a children’s play area and improvements to a portion of existing green space at the site, which covers 6.3 hectares and sits off Brown Lane East and Ingram Road.

Outdoor seating areas, footpaths and a segregated cycle route are also planned, along with a 267-space car park and dozens of bike storage bays.

The scheme is one of three new sports hubs planned for Leeds as part of the national Parklife programme, which aims to deliver improved facilities for grassroots football using funding from the Football Association, the Premier League, Sport England, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and the Football Foundation charity.

Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, active lifestyles and culture, said:

“This is a key milestone for a scheme that underlines our commitment to the health and wellbeing of everyone living in Leeds.

“The new hub will be a significant asset, not just for residents in Holbeck but also those in surrounding areas and indeed the whole of south Leeds.

“Crucially, its facilities will be affordable and accessible for all, providing more opportunities for the kind of physical activity and exercise that has really important health benefits.

“It will also have a positive social impact by bringing people together, whether that’s through participating in sport or simply spending time in its attractive outdoor spaces.

“I look forward to seeing the development taking shape and eventually making a lasting difference to Holbeck and Leeds.”

Cllr Annie Maloney (Labour, Beeston & Holbeck) added:

“I’m delighted this development has been approved by plans panel and I’m looking forward to local teams being able to train in Holbeck and the improvements of GP provision in the area. I’m hoping that the delays caused by this project being forced to plans panel does not impact on the timeline to completion.”

Funding for the scheme will be provided from a range of sources, with the bulk coming via external grant support. Once built, the new hub will be leased on a long-term basis to a not-for-profit trust and managed by an outside operator. Profits generated will be invested back into improving other community football facilities across Leeds, where there is currently a shortfall of full-size artificial pitches.

Over the last three years alone, around 5,000 football matches in the city have had to be postponed due to natural turf pitches being left waterlogged or otherwise unusable.

Parklife hubs are also planned for Thorpe Park in east Leeds and Woodhall Playing Fields near Pudsey, with another already up-and-running at Bodington Playing Fields in Adel.

Local Green Party activist Matt Rogan commented:

“I’m really glad to see a proposal for a community hub … However, one aspect of the sports hub raises concern: three full-size 3G plastic pitches. Plastic pitches are known to be environmentally unfriendly, and seeing that there would be three – which would mean just shy of 20,000 square metres of artificial grass – raised alarm bells. For starters, artificial grass has a strong negative impact on biodiversity, but they also have impacts such as overheating in hot weather and potential micro plastic pollution.”

 

This post is based on press releases issued by Leeds City Council and Beeston & Holbeck ward councillors

 

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3 Replies to “New sports hub will be a champion asset for Holbeck”

  1. It’s fantastic to hear it has been delayed because in March next year Sport England are aiming to start the transition away from rubber crumb. They are urgently testing alternatives now because the rubber crumb pitches cause plastic pollution and waste. All this information is available in Sport England’s new Sustainability Strategy. The Chair of Sport England recently stated that the pitches are “very bad for the environment”. This pollution is significant affecting marine life, soil, air and human bodies. The pitch infill is the largest single source of (intentionally added) microplastic pollution in Europe. The infill made from old tyres contain hundreds of toxic chemicals including carcinogens and chemicals that can cause developmental and reproductive issues. DEFRA will also report early next year on new UK regulations to restrict the microplastics. The rubber crumb pitches are already banned in Europe with an 8 year transition period to allow existing pitch owners to switch from the rubber crumb. The Netherlands are currently ripping them up as they want them out sooner by 2030. They are switching to natural grass because the plastic surfaces also shed microplastics, contain PFAS Forever Chemicals, heat up the environment adding to global warming and are difficult to recycle.. The safest pitches are better designed and managed natural grass. Well done to all who highlighted the council’s inept decision to choose rubber crumb pitches instead of alternatives. We will see if the council switch next year to safer pitches. So to call this current development “state of the art” is false advertising and very misleading.

  2. That site should have had a replacement school on it. Most of the kids in that area have to go to one of the Cockburn Schools and are driven there. The families in those streets adjacent to this facility are sadly in the lower income brackets and will find it hard to find cash to pay to play in that whether it is the poisoness rubber and plastic or grass. I fear for the health of those living downwind will that bit of Holbeck become tarnished like the houses in Armley were next to the Asbestos factories?

  3. Wondering if thats one of the reasons the chair of the plans panel is now in charge. The councillor who always does as he is told. The article reads like the Green Party. held the building of this up… 2 months thats all and in the light of the importance of toxic grass pitches this is not a long time. Wondering if the upkeep cost of these pitches has been taken into account because it is astronomical? Cllr Malone compares this with Bodington Playing Fields in Adel. Nothing like. If you live in South Leeds its football or nothing. Thats a multi sports facility for the university (but public can use it). Nowhere does it show what the fees are to “normal” people which is another worrying factor. The rest of the complex is needed and if it was real grass pitches with proper drainage I for one would be backing it 100% but its just another way of getting rid of old tyres.

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