Councillors have been misled by planning officers into agreeing to re-designate a junior rugby pitch as housing land

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Willow Road Junior Rugby Pitch photographed in September 2014
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For many years, the green space just south of Burley Liberal Club was used by Queens Rugby Club as a junior rugby pitch and for pre-season training. The Club rented the land from Leeds City Council which provided £16,000 for a high wire mesh fence to surround the pitch.

The area was designated as “amenity green space” in the council’s Site Allocations Plan Publication Draft published in September 2015. But then in July 2016, a planning department report 1 persuaded the council’s Development Plan Panel to re-designate half the site as housing land. The report stated, “The site has not been in playing field use for around 9 or 10 years. The Site Allocations Plan Publication Draft proposed the site as a green space designation, but classed it as amenity green space, not playing fields. There is therefore a clear justification for the site being allocated for housing.”

In fact, the site was used by Queens Rugby Club until March this year. Up until then, the club paid the council rent of £400 annually for the use of the land. The club only stopped using the site because the council had stopped cutting the grass and because players were no longer able to access the adjacent car park.

If the council incorrectly designated the site as “amenity green space” when it should have designated the site as “outdoor sports,” this is not “clear justification” for the site being allocated for housing. The only action justified by the error is correction of the error, i.e. for the site to be re-classified as “outdoor sports.”

Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward, where the pitch is located, has only a quarter of the outdoor sports area required by the Site Allocations Plan Publications Draft. Shouldn’t planning officers therefore be trying to increase outdoor sports provision in the ward, instead of reducing it? When can we expect their “error” to be corrected?

The Site Allocations Plan Publication Draft designates large amounts of open space across the city as “amenity green space.” So it should concern us all when planning officers state that because the junior rugby pitch had been designated as “amenity green space,” it can be re-designated for housing. For it implies that planning officers treat “amenity green space” as undesignated left over space, which can be re-designated for any purpose they choose.

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