One hundred people attended a meeting last night (10 December 2017) to find our more about Aspiring Communities’ (AC) controversial plans for the Ice Pak site on Barkly Road.
The meeting, organised by Aspiring Communities and held at Beeston Parish Centre, set out to answer residents’ questions about the group’s plans. An independent chair Abdul Rahim kept what was at times a fractious meeting on track. Here’s what we learned:
1. Asbestos was removed safely
Four years ago one of the buildings on site was demolished for safety reasons. The building contained an amount of asbestos cement which AC maintain was properly removed from the site. AC will bring documentation to a scheduled meeting with Save Our Beeston and Councillors this week and have offered to email the documentation to anyone who asks.
Consultant Neil Hardy explained to the meeting that the asbestos at Ice Pak was white asbestos, not as dangerous or blue or brown asbestos and was bound into the cement. In his opinion it posed a minimal risk. The contractors did not inform Leeds City Council or the Health & Safety Executive because they were not required to given the type of asbestos and the regulations in force at the time.
2. The centre will open in 2020
AC plan to start some activities in the building fronting Barkly Road early in 2018 (this building will eventually be demolished). Work on the car park is expected to start in February 2019 and the centre is due to open in 2020.
3. How AC chooses contractors and advisors
AC chooses reputable, independent professional contractors to advise it and carry out work on its behalf. For example the traffic study was undertaken by Amey, a large, well respected, firm who were “neither the cheapest, nor the most expensive.”
4. You can never consult enough
Many people in the room accused AC of not consulting local people properly and yet the Planning Inspector found that AC had gone well beyond what most developers do including regular attendance at Beeston Community Forum.
5. Women will not have to use a separate entrance to the building
The centre will have three elements: the sports/community hall on the ground floor; a multi faith room; and an Islamic prayer room. The Islamic prayer room will be segregated with separate entrances for men and women in line with Muslim culture. These arrangements have been approved as part of the planning permission.
6. Why no parties?
AC scaled back their original plans for the site as a result of early consultation with residents and planners, that included using the site for wedding and other parties. However it will be available for children’s parties.
7. Poor communicators
AC accepted that they had not communicated their plans and intentions as well as they might have over the last four years.
8. Multi Faith Room free to hire and welcome books from other faiths
The Multi Faith Room will be available to use, free of charge and books about all faiths will be welcomed
9. Project will cost £3-5m
The centre is expected to cost between £3-5 million to build. AC have raised £1 million so far, but paused their fundraising during the planning dispute.
10. Capacity of prayer room is 250
The Islamic Prayer Room has a maximum capacity of 250.
Aspiring Communities can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.