Richard Kirby, founder of Outdoor Classrooms Ltd, based in Calverley, has spent 25 years building outdoor play areas, outdoor classrooms and garden spaces for schools but he says austerity cuts to school budgets have forced him to consider selling to the public.
“I put the timber framed buildings in a private field near Rodley Roundabout to display an example of our work to the general public,” said Richard. “I didn’t know there were rules prohibiting advertising like this and the last thing I want to do is fall out with the council. So, I have decided to give one of the sheds away to a local school in a prize draw.
“We work closely with Leeds schools and recently donated 120 teepees to schools and nurseries. A lot of what we do here is all about sustainability, protecting the environment and improving the health of children. In fact, that’s how the business was set up in the first place.
“In recent times, it has become harder for schools to access budgets for the kind of things we do. We would be more than happy to work with the council to create healthy education gardens to improve the quality and experiences that children have at school - that’s a conversation I’d love to have.”
Mr Kirby, who sources all his timber from woodland he manages, also makes and installs giant wooden sculptures in schools and parks.
He added: “The problem is finding ways to make it easier for schools to access money to pay for these things. We would welcome working with parent teacher associations and also look at corporate sponsorship in order to make it happen.”
Mr Kirby received a letter from Leeds City Council warning him he was in contravention of the Town & Country Planning Act, branding his timber framed building “an illegal advert”, adding it was contrary to Paragraph 66 of the national planning policy guidance. It states that such “adverts” require “express consent” from the local planning authority.
If Mr Kirby fails to remove the structure, the letter warns he could be fined £250 a day. However, he has already agreed to move it.
Richard’s company, Outdoor Classrooms Ltd, has worked with hundreds of schools across Yorkshire over the past 25 years, including Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, where they recently installed a timber framed outdoor classroom. They also have installed some of their pieces at Pudsey Lowtown Primary School, including a Viking longboat, a forest throne at Valley View Primary; their work can also be seen in the maze in the playground at Temple Newsam and the totem pole on the village green in Gildersome, to name but a few.
For details of how to enter the prize draw to win the timber shed, see his website: www.outdoorclassrooms.co.uk