Royal Park School – the council thinks it’s in Harehills !

“Vision for Leeds 2004 to 2020” is a document produced by Leeds Initiative, a body which describes itself as “a public, private & community partnership for Leeds, led by the City Council”. According to their website, “The Vision for Leeds is a long-term strategy for the economic, social and environmental development of the city”.

On page 67 of the Vision it states :

Leeds is a unique city made up of very different places and communities, including rural areas, market towns, outlying areas and inner-city neighbourhoods. Every neighbourhood, village and town in Leeds needs its own identity and role.

This is very true. So why then on the same page is there a picture of Royal Park Road with the caption “A street in Harehills” ? The photograph with its caption reveal the above statement to be nothing more than another meaningless Leeds City Council platitude. It’s clear that to the people behind this document, one inner city area is pretty much the same as any other.

Message from the school

The local community has taken over Royal Park School in order to repair it, and to protect it from further vandalism. They have issued the following statement :

Save Our School

Royal Park Primary School was closed in 2004 by Leeds City Council.

On its closure our community was promised that it would be retained as badly needed community space.

Then, Leeds City Council’s Asset Management took over an intact working building.

After many rejected bids from the community (some of them having considerable funding attached to them) Asset Management chose the private and highly professional company Rushbond PLC to convert the school into badly needed old age pensioners flats . . . opposite the busiest, noisiest public houses in an area of predominantly young transient population !

As with most of the council’s big ideas it was a ‘foolproof’, watertight’ plan that fell through eighteen months later.

After Royal Park Consortium (RPCC), discovered that Rushbond PLC had pulled out of the deal, RPCC again approached the Asset Management team and made another bid on behalf of the community to utilise the building, and again were rejected – on the ground that RPCC had no track record and no finances (unlike Rushbond PLC).

RPCC always intended that, once in possession of the building, we would start to apply for funding – the chicken and egg dilemma !

Leeds City Council were one of the first councils to sign up to the asset transfer scheme, headed by the government, to help communities to take responsibility for their own destinies. Leeds City Council have not yet allowed any assets to be transferred into public ownership and questions have been asked in the House of Commons.

It was pointed out many times in meetings with the Asset Management team, that the intact, well-maintained, water-tight roof was one of the many assets of the building.

Five months ago, lead was taken from the roof of the building, not stolen, but just left in heaps in the playground. Even though the police were called, and each road approaching the school is monitored by cameras, nobody has been arrested or questioned. (You have to have a mighty set of ladders to get up to the roof !). The lead was taken by the council and, by all accounts, lies in a yard somewhere !

Asset Management have spent between £10,000 and £15,000 per year on security for the building, as well as carrying insurance for public liability. On its own estimate, it would cost £1,200,000 (before the lead was taken from the roof) to rectify the damage caused during the time that Asset Management has had custody of the building.

When RPCC enquired when the roof would be fixed, they were told the matter was in hand and the damage would be made good. Yet here we are at the end of autumn, with the cold wet months of winter still to come, and the school still has no roof.

Would you let weather in through the roofs of one of your assets, why would Leeds City Council ?

The council says “The Mission of the Council is to bring the benefits of a prosperous,vibrant and attractive city to all the people of Leeds”

I’m sick and tired of my council
tax being wasted !

But are you ?

Do we stand buy and watch the iconic building at the centre of our community become derelict, pulled down and replaced with….a supermarket….more student flats ?

What should we do ? What can you do ?

You can help us in a number of ways :

  1. You can become a member of RPCC by attending one of their meetings and joining up (phone Sue for further details on 07796 784 018)
  2. You can help to repair the building – clean it and maintain its grounds – donate food or building materials (phone Royal Park Primary School on 07910 887 294)
  3. Arrange to become a sleeping-in watch person – help maintain building security (phone Royal Park Primary School on 07910 887 294)

Another Leeds University assault on our area

In yet another assault on Hyde Park and Woodhouse, the City Centre plans panel this afternoon gave it’s approval to a planning application from Leeds University to relocate the School of Law to a single site at the junction of Moorland Road and Belle Vue Road. It will mean the demolition of the buildings shown in the photograph, and their replacement with buildings that will be twice their height. Development in a conservation area should enhance the area but the replacement buildings will be large, unattractive, and being on a prominent corner, they will dominate the area. And with their flat roofs, they will stick out like a sore thumb amongst Victorian stone and brick buildings with pitched roofs.

The Law School has an annual intake of 250 undergraduates. In addition it has 150 postgraduates, 40 research students and 65 permanent staff. This means the new building will bring 1,005 new people and their cars into this quiet residential area. And yet amazingly, the proposal will result in ten fewer on site car parking spaces than at present.

Traffic will increase on Belle View Road due to the new car park entrance being relocated to Belle Vue Road. And the new entrance will also mean less street parking for residents. In addition, all the site’s rubbish will be collected from Belle Vue Road rather than from within the site. It’s very wrong that Leeds University and Leeds City Council expect local residents to bear the cost of this development in terms of increased traffic, parking congestion and obstruction.

As with almost every other development that will negatively impact this area, there were no objections to this application from our local councillors. It was left to Councillors Elizabeth Nash, Ted Hanley and Ruth Feldman to speak against it, and they were outvoted.

Going after the student vote – part 2

The announcement last year that the Lib Dem leadership was planning to drop the party’s pledge to scrap tuition fees will have set alarm bells ringing for Lib Dem MPs in constituencies with large numbers of students like Leeds North West. That’s because such MPs believe they hold their seats due to the student vote. An article about this was published in the Guardian prior to the 2005 General Election (1). It states:

Liberal Democrat research has identified 14 seats where there are enough students to take them from second place to beat Labour, and 13 where they could go from second to beat the Tories. It is based on all students voting in their university rather than home constituencies.

The article identifies Leeds North West as being one of 14 Labour seats that the Lib Dems were hoping to win thanks to the student vote. And as predicted, Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland was duly elected as the MP for Leeds North West in the 2005 General Election.

Now that the Lib Dems nationally are no longer promising to scrap tuition fees, perhaps their “Campaign Group for Student Constituencies” will be able to find new ways to persuade students to vote for them. This is a group set up by Mr Mulholland earlier this year with the message that the Liberal Democrat party “best represents university constituencies and the interests of students, academics and long-term residents alike” (2).

Perhaps as a prelude to this campaign, Mr Mulholland had a meeting with Leeds University student rep Rob Damiao where, according to Mr Damiao, a relationship was established which it’s hoped will result in more students voting at the next election. Since the Lib Dems claim to have far more student supporters at Leeds University than the other parties, they’ll no doubt be hoping that the majority of these extra voters will be voting Lib Dem (3).


Students can swing 27 seats say NUS – April 2005
Lib Dems form campaign group for student constituencies – March 2009
Student rep’s work update report – January 2009

Going after the student vote

Our Lib Dem councillors are trying to alter polling district boundaries and polling stations to enable more students to vote on or close to the university campus. If successful, their proposals would effectively disenfranchise many permanent residents. The first alteration would involve transferring voters from part of polling district HWD to polling district HWF. The Lib Dems give the following reason for  the change,

“Most of the residents being moved into HWF are students at St Mark’s flats and student residents on Clarendon Road so would best be served by a polling station at the university.”

But what of the retired people who live in the Harrison Potter Home on Raglan Road. At present they can vote simply by walking down the road to Woodhouse Community Centre but under the Lib Dem proposal they’ll be required to go to the university campus to vote. The students who live in St Mark’s flats and Samara Plaza can presently quite easily vote at Woodhouse Community Centre, but it would not be so easy for permanent residents to visit the university.

The second Lib Dem proposal would require all the voters in polling district HWF north of Woodhouse Lane to vote at the new Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Building inside the university campus, instead of as at present, in the Parkinson Building. Apparently, the university has said that it will no longer allow the Parkinson Building to be used as a polling station, and the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Building is the alternative being proposed by the Lib Dems, presumably with the agreement of the university. If this change goes ahead, it will deter many permanent residents from voting as most local people do not know their way round the university campus. If the Parkinson Building is no longer available for use as a polling station, then an alternative should be provided outside the university campus. Local residents should not be required to enter the university campus in order to vote.

The third Lib Dem proposal affects a polling district boundary not shown on the above map.  If it goes ahead, it would mean that two student tower blocks would be transferred from polling district HWH to polling district HWG. The Lib Dems give the following reason for the proposal,

“Two new large student blocks, Concept Place and The Triangle are a lot further from the polling station in HWH than they are from the polling station in HWG at the Swarthmore Centre on Woodhouse Square”

This is actually not the case. The Triangle is equidistant between the two polling stations and Concept Place is only very slightly closer to the Swarthmore Centre. This proposal has been designed like the other two, with the interests of students in mind as the Swarthmore Centre is very close to the university. However, unlike the other two proposals, it appears to have no negative consequences for permanent residents.

Where you vote is supposed to be based on where you live. But for a very large number of students, our Lib Dem councillors are trying to make it more about where you study. And they’re doing this at the expense of permanent residents.


The Lib Dem proposals

The road widening threat to Woodhouse Moor is back, and it’s called NGT

NGT trailerLast Thursday, the 18th June, Leeds City Council and Metro unveiled their plans for New Generation Transport (NGT), a scheme that would see trolleybuses running in leeds for the first time since 1928.  The plan is to have three routes; the East Route, the South Route, and the North Route, with the trolleybuses running along dedicated bus lanes wherever possible

The North Route would run along the line of the A660.  Because there’s no plan to knock down any of the buildings opposite the university, this would create a bottleneck at the junction of the A660 and Clarendon Road. To cope with this bottleneck, traffic would be stacked on Woodhouse Moor.  This would be done either by widening the existing road between Rampart Road and Clarendon Road, or by building a new road across Monument moor.  The second option exists because the Highways Department are aware of local sensitivity about losing the avenue of trees.

The stated aim of the scheme is to create an improved public transport system using dedicated bus lanes wherever possible. But if that’s the aim, then it could be achieved by creating dedicated bus lanes within the existing highway.

This scheme would affect Woodhouse Moor in an almost identical manner to the scheme proposed by Highways at the end of last year. At that time, we were told that the road widening was necessary to facilitate a pedestrian crossing on Clarendon Road.

A new website has been set up to keep people informed about this latest threat to our area – New Generation Transport

Our councillors’ ideal resident

SheepLast Summer, our councillors sponsored a DPPO (Designated Public Places Order) intended to ban anti-social drinking in public in parts of Little London and on Hanover and Woodhouse Squares. The DPPO was opposed by North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, South Headingley Community Association and Friends of Woodhouse Moor, on the grounds that street drinkers displaced from the areas to be covered by the DPPO, would move to Woodhouse Moor. On the 2nd July last year, the three community associations went as a deputation to a meeting of the full council and asked for Woodhouse Moor to be included in the DPPO. The next day, at an INWAC meeting, Councillor Sue Bentley (Lib Dem, Weetwood) said that “this vociferous group of people” must not be allowed to prevent the residents who live around Hanover Square from enjoying the protection of a DPPO. She added that Woodhouse Moor is big enough to absorb the problem of street drinkers, echoing the view of the police at that time.

Then on the 25th September 2008, at another INWAC meeting, when I pointed out that it would be inappropriate for St George’s Crypt to move to the former St Michael’s College building since it was located on the other side of the road from a former council housing estate where there are families with young children, Councillor Jamie Matthews (Lib Dem, Headingley) called me a Nimby.

When we don’t agree with what they’re trying to do, our councillors apply labels to us. By labelling us, they think they don’t have to deal with the logic of our arguments. Our councillors don’t want residents who think and understand the issues, they want sheep who will follow them blindly.

(photo courtesy of David Masters)


I attended the recent INWAC Meeting on 2nd April, 09 and came away extremely disappointed by the way in which the meeting was conducted. There were a number of points that showed the behaviour of some INWAC Councillors to be unseemly.

1. The Chairman of the meeting, Councillor Monaghan, was curt to several members of the public when he forcibly prevented proper debate concerning BBQs on Woodhouse Moor in the Open Forum. If these meetings are intended to involve the public in the consultation process, then this one failed. Large numbers of the public attended the opening but walked out feeling disenfranchised because they were prevented from speaking.

2. At the last INWAC meeting, held in February, a considerable amount of time was given over to the Open Forum to discuss 4 different local matters; 3 of which had little or no impact on the majority of Inner North West residents. Yet at this meeting a time block was put on BBQ’s, an issue which has relevance to and an impact on far more people than for example, the BMX track!

3. Councillor Atha made clear and well argued points against the proposal to authorise BBQs and was shouted down in the brouhaha style used in parliamentary politics at Westminster. Points of order were flying about as political scores were being settled by Councillors and the public were left totally unclear about why Councillor Atha’s proposal was ousted.

4. Councillor Ewens stated that a public consultation exercise was in process about BBQs so debate at this meeting was unnecessary. The fact is that most local, permanent residents have been excluded from the ballot about BBQs due to the undemocratic methods used to illicit opinion. That point was clearly made by Martin Staniforth (Chair of NHPNA) and accepted b y Councillor Matthews.

5. Permanent residents, who will be paying for the designated BBQ pitches and for the clear-up operations from the BBQs /bonfires that will inevitably be lit elsewhere, have not been consulted effectively. Yet the transient population of students, none of whom pay Council Tax and many of whom are not on the electoral roll in Leeds, have been enabled to voice their views freely. Consequently the results of the ballot are likely to be skewed.

6. In terms of the balance of arguments, although Councillor Matthews was the only member to actually voice his support for authorising BBQs on the Moor, one was left thinking that he was backed by the other Lib-Dem Councillors. He seemed to be saying that it was easier to take the line of least resistance to the hooligans who wantonly despoil Woodhouse Moor with their bonfires by providing them a designated area. The Council seems to be able to enforce a BBQ ban in other Leeds parks to counter the potential of environmental damage caused by fire. Why is this park different and why should it not be offered the same protection against damage as those in more affluent areas such as Roundhay?

7. Finally, the acoustics in the Jubilee Room were poor and it was difficult to hear what was being said by many of the Councillors and officers. This could have been rectified had a public address system been used or more simply, each individual should stand up and turn to address the public in a clear voice.

Overall I was not left with a very favourable impression of the way in which some INWAC Councillors use their elected power to represent those of us who are permanent residents in the city, who pay their Council Tax and who exercise their vote because they are on the electoral register.

Marian Smith, 19th April 09


dsc02893bIt was great that so many of you came out to the bowls pavilion on Thursday afternoon to express an opinion on the council’s barbeque proposal. It was wild and windy but that didn’t put you off.  Even Lib Dem Councillor Penny Ewens was there for part of the time. Councillor Ewens you should know, is a champion of a supposed right to barbeque on Woodhouse Moor. It’s great to know that in a ward where the bins regularly don’t get emptied, where rats roam freely feeding on discarded takeaways, and where illegal and dangerous parking is tolerated, that Councillor Ewens is prepared to use our council tax and council resources in her mission to establish barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor.

dsc02879bEven Sparky the dog came along to have his say about barbeques. Sparky doesn’t like barbeques because when people leave them lying around, his owner won’t allow him on the park. Caring dog owners avoid the park when it’s covered with discarded disposable barbeque grilles as they can cause serious injury. One of Sparky’s doggy friends had to have stitches in his lip when he tried to eat the meat that had been left on one of the razor sharp barbeque grilles. Sparky lives on the other side of the road from the park. It’s a real shame that he and other dogs can’t use their local park because of Leeds City Council’s craven attitude towards the people who are making such a mess of the place. One thing I’m willing to bet, Sparky won’t be voting for Councillor Ewens when she stands for re-election.  And neither will his owner.

Friday’s Barbeque Consultation at the Students’ Union Building

dsc02038a-downOur councillors are proposing two very large barbeque areas. These will be covered with concrete slabs in the hope that people will rest their barbeques on them. It wasn’t made clear what will happen if people don’t use the slabs or if they barbeque outside the designated areas. They don’t know yet how much all of this will cost if it’s implemented.

10,000 survey forms are to be issued to all households within 800 metres of the park’s perimeter.  Included with the survey forms will be prepaid return envelopes. The councillors who’ve made the arrangements for the consultation process are Councillor Penny Ewens (Lib Dem, Hyde Park and Woodhouse), and Councillor Jamie Matthews (Lib Dem, Headingley).  At the meeting, there was a display illustrating what’s being proposed, and two Parks and Countryside officers were present to answer questions. Also present was a Students’ Union representative who explained why he believes people should be allowed to barbeque in the park.
While the consultation was going on, a bonfire was blazing on the Moor. Even though fires are currently illegal on the Moor, the people who instigated this one were able to enjoy their blaze with impunity. Given that no action is ever taken against such people, one wonders what the current consultation exercise is all about. Do they think that by making barbeques legal, the problem will go away ? If so, it reveals that for our councillors, the problem is not barbeques – it’s local residents complaining about them, and our council’s failure to uphold the law in our local park. To see photos of the bonfire and its aftermath, and read about it, please go to Woodhouse Moor Online.