School’s neighbours score goal over all-weather pitch location

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Plans to build an all-weather pitch surrounded by 15-metre-high floodlights near housing in Leeds have been withdrawn after a campaign by residents.

Cockburn High School, in Gipsy Lane, Beeston, submitted proposals to refurbish their playing fields – which would created a full-size artificial grass pitch to the rear of houses on the neighbouring Southleigh estate – in July.

Residents feared late night noise as well as light disruption from eight proposed floodlights on the pitch that could be used until 10pm, seven days a week including during holidays.

However, after several letters of complaint were sent to Leeds City Council and a petition against the plans gathered pace, the school has agreed to submit plans that would put the pitch more than 70 metres from the nearest housing.

Headteacher David Gurney said: “If you think about the legacy of the Olympics, what we want are world class facilities at Cockburn.

“We have listened to the residents’ objections and I feel that we have done a lot to appease their concerns.”

He said that in practice the facilities, for which plans are currently being finalised by architects, are unlikely to be used up until 10pm at night but will need to be used be the community to justify funding.

The move was announced at a meeting of the Southleigh Residents Association at the school last week.

Association chair John Ellis said: “In many respects the meeting itself, which the residents association organised, was a bit of a triumph of people power as they have got the school to totally move the pitch away from their homes.”

At the meeting concerns were voiced that the new pitch could result in more local traffic, backing arguments for a 20mph zone in the area, but Mr Ellis said “there is nothing to suggest we should priorities that on Gipsy Lane”.

Southleigh Drive resident John Hook added: “They say there is not going to be any increase in traffic from this all-weather pitch but still, if they’re (children) going to be using this pitch there is more children about because we are creating this new facility.”

He said that his requests for a lower speed limit on Gipsy Lane had been turned down on the grounds that not enough accidents had been reported there to warrant one.

Along with the all-weather pitch, new fencing and changing facilities are planned for the school’s existing playing fields.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said that when the new application is submitted, it will be sent to a plans panel for discussion.

The revelation came as house building in the city received a boost with the announcement that a large former council property in Chapeltown has just been refurbished by Unity Housing Association and turned into a six-bedroom family home.

The Victorian detached house on Sholebroke Avenue in Leeds was previously used by the NHS and had been empty since 2009.

As part of the council’s objective to bringing empty properties back into use, officers worked with the housing association to negotiate the sale of the property to bring it back into use as a family home. It has now been let to a family who had been on the city’s housing register.

Following the extensive refurbishment, the property now benefits from many energy saving measures such as wall and cavity insulation and solar powered hot water.

Councillor Richard Lewis, executive board member with responsibility for development, said: “We have been undertaking a lot of work across the city with both the private and public sector to try and bring empty homes back into use.

“We are well aware of the need for more homes, and this is one excellent example of the council working with partners to offer families and people on the housing register in Leeds a good home.”