My regular readers will be expecting something witty, pithy and topical about how some feature of modern life particularly affects us here in South Leeds. People who disagree with me on a certain planning application will be annoyed that I’m banging on about that again and not changing my mind.
I’ve thought long and hard about this. I need to report on a public statement issued by the Aspiring Communities Steering Group, but I’m one of the signatories, so I’m heavily involved in the story. My solution is to report in this clearly marked ‘op ed’ piece with a clear ‘comment’ logo in friendly red letters. This is my personal opinion, not South Leeds Life’s view (SLL doesn’t have a view).
OK so what is this statement? It’s a simple restating of the position of the Steering Group. You can read it in full on the Aspiring Communities website. It starts by explaining that the group is basically a sounding board for the charity made up of people who support their aims of better integration. It then tries to dispel some of the myths that exist about the Aspiring Communities project.
I’m assuming you are all familiar with the story so far. AC have bought the former Ice Pak factory site on Barkly Road in Beeston. Its two planning applications have received many objections. The first batch of objections were organised by the Beeston Campaign for Affordable Homes and the second by the Save Our Beeston campaign.
If you do need to catch up just type Aspiring Communities into the Search box in the right hand column of this page, just above the What’s On calendar.
The most pressing problem with the project is that it will increase traffic in the area. There’s no denying it, compared to a derelict ex-factory site with no activity, there will be more traffic when it’s developed. This applies no matter way is built there. Even, perhaps especially if it ended up being housing. This is modern life. I wish people didn’t drive as much, I wish I didn’t drive as much, but people do.
Aspiring Communities have gone out of their way to provide on site parking. In doing so they have fuelled fear that many people will drive to the site. Every day, at all hours of the day, especially at the time of the school run. I hope Aspiring Communities’ activities are going to be successful, but there’s no way the car park will be full all day.
Other comments we’ve seen have been that the sports hall is really a mosque in disguise and the centre will become a Jihadi training base. Both of these are nonsense. The fact that there is a prayer room in the building does not make it a mosque any more than a gathering of Christians praying in a house turns the house into a church.
The Steering Group and Aspiring Communities have a very strong emphasis on the Prevent agenda. The point of encouraging integration is to undercut the dangerous ideas of fundamentalism. That’s why West Yorkshire Police work with us. And sport is a great way to get people from different backgrounds together, that’s why Hunslet Rugby Foundation are working with us.
Hundreds, thousands of people in Beeston have declared their opposition to the project. Democracy is about the rule of majority, no? Well hmmm, here’s the thing. How was the project presented to the people who signed the petition?
I’m afraid they haven’t convinced me to change my mind. Let’s see what influence they have on the South & West Plans Panel – the people who will actually make the decision.
At South Leeds Life we do try to be balanced. So for example when the Save Our Beeston campaign raised concerns about AC supporters holding extreme views, we asked AC to comment. This time we asked SOB for a comment on the Steering Group statement. Whilst they did say on their Facebook page that they would comment, we haven’t received a formal comment to date.
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.