Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s land

RoundaboutIn January 2007, a deal was signed between Leeds City Council and Leeds University whereby in exchange for receiving £255,697, Leeds City Council agreed to construct two mini soccer pitches and a MUGA (multi use games area) on Woodhouse Moor.  The person who engineered this deal was Robert Sladdin, Director of Estates at Leeds University.  In addition to getting Leeds City Council to agree to build sports facilities on the Moor, as part of the deal Mr Sladdin got planning permission from the council to build on the former Grammar School Protected Playing Pitch.

Fresh from this triumph, on the 28th February 2008, Mr Sladdin gave a presentation of his University of Leeds Strategic Development Framework to a Leeds City Council planning committee.  During the presentation, he revealed that he wants the university to take over the roundabout in front of the Parkinson Building.  It seems that the roundabout is owned by Leeds City Council who have not been maintaining it, with the consequence that Leeds University has been obliged to carry out that task.  Mr Sladdin said he wants to tarmac over the roundabout so that the area can be used as a dropping off point for coaches, taxis and private cars. He said that this would relieve the current congestion in the area.

For most of my lifetime the roundabout was well-maintained and laid out as a large flowerbed.   From Spring to Autumn, it was a riot of colour.  I used to admire it every day when I passed it.   Ever since the university took it upon itself to maintain the roundabout, it’s been grassed over.  The grass has many bare patches because so many people walk across it.

The Parkinson Building is probably the most impressive building in the city after the Town Hall.  It was built using money given to the university by businessman and former student Frank Parkinson (1887-1946) That the people in charge of Leeds University should now want to convert the area in front of it into a vehicle dropping off point, raises questions about their fitness to be in charge of such an important part of their own and the city’s architectural heritage.

The likely outcome is that Leeds City Council will hand over yet more of our green space so that the university can tarmac it over.  And you can bet that the council will grant planning permission for the project. How could they object ?  This guardian of our heritage has itself been using the area in front of the Town Hall as a car park for the past 70 years.

And if Robert Sladdin feels obliged to maintain the roundabout because Leeds City Council won’t do it, I’m surprised he doesn’t feel a similar obligation to maintain Woodhouse Moor, given that it too is immediately adjacent to the university.

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