Campaigners want to stop Stourton Park and Ride - and claim Leeds council leader has snubbed them

A CGI image of the planned Stourton Park and Ride. Picture: Leeds City Council.
A CGI image of the planned Stourton Park and Ride. Picture: Leeds City Council.

Campaigners intend to stop the creation of a new park and ride - and claim that the leader of Leeds City Council has snubbed her own ward.

Work is due to begin on the new facility, which would provide space for 1,200 cars and a terminus building next to the he M621 junction seven roundabout by Hunslet Cemetery, after its full approval.

The Stourton Park and Ride - which is likely to cost around £30m, with £27m from West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) - aims to reduce the number of car journeys into Leeds city centre by providing alternative bus travel to deal with a lack of parking spaces in the central area and address its air quality problems.

But residents of Belle Isle, Middleton and Hunslet acting under the banner of Stop the Park and Ride in Stourton (SPARS) campaign have concerns.

In a deputation to the council last year, members argued that its placement next to the cemetery had “no regard to the families and friends of those buried there,” and said that it would increase traffic and “create mayhem on our bus routes” during building work.

They also feel that it would cause air pollution to affect Hunslet and the surrounding areas.

Chairwoman Mary Spencer yesterday told the YEP: "We are very much concerned that there has not been proper consultation with the people it will affect the most.

"The only benefit of this is for people from Wakefield and the city centre."

Ms Spencer, of Hunslet, added: "We feel it's very ironic when Judith Blake - who is the local councillor (of the nearby Middleton Park ward) - made absolutely no comment.

"Judith Blake is portraying herself as the climate change guru and putting a state of emergency in Leeds when in her own ward it's got the highest morbidity rate for respiratory issues."

Using the example of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties, latest health statistics published by Leeds Observatory show that 5,190 people have the condition in Hunslet and Riverside and 5,185 in Middleton Park - the two most affected wards in the city.

Most cases of the disease are caused by smoking and second-hand smoke, according to the COPD Foundation, but it can also be a consequence of breathing in dusts, fumes, or chemicals over a long period of time.

The observatory's profile for the the city's Inner South Community Committee reads that "respiratory disease mortality rates have always been very high and are more or less static".

The council recently declared a climate emergency, calling on the government to provide it with the funding and powers to become carbon neutral by 2030.

But Ms Spencer said the authorities have "done absolutely nothing to mitigate the impact" of the park and ride.

No jobs would be created for local people through the scheme, she added.

"We aren't accepting this. We are pursuing avenues, including central government, including calling-in this plan, including the appeals process."

The council has acknowledged that in some parts of the city, air pollution exceeds legal limits.

In February, research by Friends of the Earth showed that the north-west entrance of the traffic tunnel in Neville Street near Leeds Station was UK’s worst spot for breaching nitrogen dioxide levels outside London.

The spot was found to have an NO2 level of 99 micrograms per cubic meter of air – nearly two-and-a-half times over the UK and European objective of 40.

Along with the park and rides - others are already in use at Temple Green and Elland Road - the council has also proposed a Clean Air Charging Zone covering more than half of the city to be introduced from January 6, 2020, monitored using a purpose-built cameras.

How the Leeds Clean Air Zone will work and who has to pay the charge

In response to the SPARS claims, Coun Blake said: “The Middleton Park councillors are continuing to work with local community groups and residents to ensure Stourton Park and Ride includes the best possible measures to bring benefit to the local residents.

“We continue to look for ways to improve the scheme, including improving safety and security in the area, enhancing the natural environment through extensive tree planting and working to deliver an all-electric bus operation in the future.

"As a result of our intervention, the council has also committed not to extend the capacity of Stourton Park and Ride in the future.”