Dear Executive Board members,
I am writing to you as Chair of the Friends of Red Hall Playing Fields ahead of the Executive Board meeting of the 21st October 2015 with respect to agenda item 19 – “East Leeds Extension update and next steps” and its supporting documents.
We have seen the agenda and the supporting appendices and we are concerned that the fields at Red Hall are being misrepresented through mistakes made in the report and appendices.
Many of these errors or misrepresentations were also made in the response to our deputation of July 8th (which we have addressed publicly). Since these errors appear to have been carried forward in reports to Executive Board, I would like to address them.
The incorrect assertions (and their locations in the next steps report) made by officers include:
Pitches described as disused
Pitches are again described as having “fallen into disuse”. They have not. They are this community’s only pedestrian-accessible green space of any description. They are playing fields serving four typologies’ worth of green space provision. Their multi-faceted usage has not been acknowledged either in the response to our deputation or the background documents.
Drainage described as “unsustainable”
The drainage is again described as “unsustainable”, despite incredibly cheap and effective improvements made by simply cleaning out the ditch to the south of the fields. When maintained, this drainage is quite effective. When allowed to overgrow with vegetation, it is not. The east ditches remain uncleaned, and promised work involving cheap use of a nearby VertiDrain machine this summer has failed to materialise. Why have two out of three cheap options remained unexplored despite great results from cleaning the ditches to the south? Where are the comparative drainage surveys between this site and Whinmoor Grange?
“Not in heavy use”
The fields are described as “not in heavy use”. Despite lack of signposting there has been a considerable increase in use of the Fields for a wide range of activities. Some of this is an overflow from Roundhay Park at peak times. Usage – and crucially, need – will increase further with the building of the thousands of houses to the east of Wetherby Road and the hundreds to the west.
“The principle of redevelopment of the site is a long-standing one.”
The principle of development was established at a time when neither the Northern Quadrant nor the hundreds of houses on the nursery land were on the horizon. As a result, this principle fails to take into account the role of the fields in the context of the momentous changes occurring surrounding the site. This argument is nothing more than an example of the logical fallacy “appeal to tradition”. We could make a similar argument about the fields being bought for sport in 1937. The principle of using the site for sport is much longer-standing than that of redevelopment.
That there are five pitches
In fact six were laid out simultaneously, as can be seen from aerial photography from 2001-2006. Those six pitches represented only around half of the available public open space at the site. Giving the impression that two out of five pitches will be retained tends to imply that two-fifths of the space would remain, when in fact only a tiny fraction of the total area would be retained. Our position remains that we are in green space deficit in five out of six typologies in Cross Gates and Whinmoor.
That Roundhay Park is “close”
Roundhay Park is again described as “close”. It is not. We are at a loss to understand how council officers can come to the 0.66mi (1.02Km) distance stated in the deputation response – which is, in any event, greater than the accessibility requirements in Core Strategy policy G3 of 720m for most typologies. For the majority of people in the local community, and for the 2000 new homes east of the A58, Roundhay Park is over a mile away (assuming that a direct route was opened up), over the other side of the Ring Road – which currently has no crossing points and is a 50mph road – and that just to get to the rather foreboding woods, not the park. If I sent my daughter to play there, I’d expect a visit from child services. If my father attempted to walk there, I’d expect him to struggle with his heart condition. I would not expect women to walk there alone for fear of assault or robbery. Two partially disabled residents of Shadwell and Whinmoor have stated to me that they would be unable to cover that distance.
I would ask that Executive Board approves nothing related to disposal of the site at this time for two reasons:
- The reasoning for disposal is based upon faulty evidence, or evidence overstated to fit the strategic case for ELOR
- A public consultation for the Site Allocations Plan is still ongoing – the fields have not yet been allocated. It gives constituents little confidence in the process to see binding decisions being taken while their opinions are still being sought.