Trees felled as work starts on Cockburn pitches

Work has started to create a new rugby and football pitch and tennis courts for Cockburn School in Beeston.

The project, on land next to the school that was formerly part of South Leeds Golf Club, has proved controversial with residents objecting to the loss of wildlife habitat and the use of microplastics in constructing the artificial pitches.

However, the school point out that they are significantly short of the recommended outdoor space for sports and the project received planning permission last year.

Almost 40 mature trees have been felled to clear space for the new courts. These trees will be replaced at a ratio of more than 3:1 with young trees (not saplings).

A proposed amendment to increase the overall size of the new site by 10% has been withdrawn, but the permission still involves closing access to a cobbled bridleway from Gipsy Lane. This requires a diversion order and it is expected that this will be published shortly.

The planned diversion will be longer and run higher up the slope. Residents have complained that the cobbled path is a historic asset of Middleton Park, identified in the Beeston Neighbourhood Plan, and as Leeds Civic Trust suggested could be kept open with the new courts accessed via gates. Once the diversion order is published, residents will have 28 days to respond.

A spokesperson for Plastic Free Fields, a Leeds-based campaign group said:

“The fact remains that the new pitch will cause microplastic and chemical pollution in our neighbourhood.”

The group are concerned that microplastics used to make the ‘crumb’ of the pitch surface will escape into the environment and pollute soil, water, air, wildlife and people.. They cite draft legislation being drawn up by DEFRA and the Environment Agency and moves in Europe to ban the use of rubber crumb.

“This month the EU has started to consider a proposal to ban products containing PFAS and Defra has PFAS as one of its top priorities in the UK REACH programme. PFAS is a chemical that is found in plastic grass blades and backing material” continued the spokesperson.

“We understand that the drainage filter for the Cockburn pitch will stop solid microplastics from entering the woodland stream. However, the filtration will not prevent any dissolved chemicals in the surface runoff water from entering the stream.

“PFAS pollution is a major burden on wildlife as well as a threat to human health. We do not think it is acceptable to disperse potentially contaminated water into a nature reserve.”

The group also point to guidelines are based on information from the European Chemical Agency, Sport England and the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Centre.

How to lower your risk to chemical exposure on artificial pitches:

  • Avoid mouth contact with the pitch surface and infill.
  • Do not swallow rubber crumb granules.
  • Limit time playing on hot days
  • Avoid eating or drinking while on the pitch
  • Clean and cover any cuts or abrasions at the earliest opportunity
  • Take off your kit and footwear before going home
  • Wash your hands after playing and before eating.

“We do hope even at this late stage Leeds City Council will reconsider this plastic pitch development and others planned in the city because of the chemical and plastic pollution they cause” concluded Plastic Free Fields.

A spokesperson for Cockburn School commented:

Sport England state that the rubber crumb is safe, citing numerous independent studies on the issue.

“They state that ‘The four national governments of the UK and their agencies are working with leading sports and industry bodies to provide greater reassurance to communities that artificial grass pitches in this country are both safe for the environment and for people to play on.’

“Schools and communities across the UK use these pitches and we would not expect Leeds City Council to build something for use by children that was considered to be unsafe for children.”

Photo: Graham Spencer


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7 Replies to “Trees felled as work starts on Cockburn pitches”

  1. The cobble path is rubbish, it’s very uneven and partly covered and dangerous in places. Hardly anyone uses it so won’t be missed ( especially all the dog poo that the few people that use it leave behind)

    1. The cobbled path is less dangerous than the PFAS and microplastics. In fact it’s probably much safer to fall head first into a big pile of dog poo than play on toxic tyre waste!

    2. What you mean by saying the cobbled path is very uneven and partly covered and dangerous is that it has been left un-maintained for years by LCC. No need to fence it off. The children are hardly at risk walking 20 foot from one enclosure to another. Many of the children walk to and from School. School sends them running in the woods and parks. The school doesn’t think of the Children’s safety then. As with the pitch the footpath is just another land grab.

  2. What you mean no one uses the cobble path or the woodland at the side of the school lots of people use it everyday a lovely bit of the woods now been bulldozed up for a plastic pitches, destroying the woodland and all of the wildlife and their homes what has been there for absolutely years, its everything what people enjoy for their mental health which is really important also. And the school i bet bangs on about protecting green spaces but yet do this double standard if ever.

    1. Do you mean all the wildlife that was protected when the site was run by the golf course – you know the sort of thing – moles being killed because they spoilt the greens, weed killers everywhere to improve the course, trees and bushes cut back to improve the course, restricted access because it was private land and walkers spoilt the enjoyment of golf club members. And perhaps it should be remembered that the whole of the golf course is now available to the general public, with the exception of the small area used for the new pitch, and the much larger area used for the cycle park – not that I’ve heard any complaints from people about that land grab, which looking at weekly usage is likely to be much less useful in the general scheme of things than new playing fields for the young people of south Leeds.
      I don’t recall these so-called environmental groups complaining about the golf course during that time. I can’t help feeling that although bats, badgers and environmentalists are always with us, sometimes they overlook the importance of children’s wellbeing and education. Children are the future of this society, not grey squirrels.

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