Butcher Hill Playing Fields


Abbey Grange High School Governors are backing a five-a-side soccer development on Butcher Hill Playing Fields that has seriously alarmed local residents. People are concerned about the visual appearance of the proposed development and the restrictions on the existing public access. Residents near other sites complain of late night noise. Others complain of light pollution. Some have written to warn us about their experiences. Solihull residents have archived their campaign to help other communities.

Butcher Hill Playing Fields, looking East from the Leeds - Harrogate railway line.

The plans include ten five-a-side floodlit soccer pitches and a full-size floodlit hockey pitch, all with artificial playing surfaces. They also include two seven-a-side pitches, a junior-size grass soccer pitch, changing rooms, club house and bar, with 168 car parking spaces. The new pitches would occupy about half the existing playing fields. The scheme is promoted by a company called Powerleague that already has 12 similar centres on school playing fields across the country.

The developers plans superimposed onto an aerial photograph. The bar and changing rooms are marked in red.

Abbey Grange School would get free daytime use, and share 50% of the profits from the evening lettings. Many local residents are concerned about noise, floodlights, cars and general commercial intrusion onto what is now a green and open area. The Kirkstall councillors share many of these concerns, and are trying to persuade the school to abandon the scheme. We will support the local residents if there is a dispute with the school.

Click here to download the Powerleague development brochure in PDF format.

Floor plan for the bar and changing rooms.

People have been quick to point out that the male changing and showering area is nearly four times larger than the female area, and that the bar is bigger than all the changing areas added together. They point to Powerleague advertisements for "stag weekends" which can still be found in the Google archive but have been hurriedly removed from the Powerleague website.

Click here to download the Kirkstall councillors' letter to residents on 14 February 2008.

Abbey Grange is a Church of England High School and claim that the Powerleague were introduced to them through the Diocese of Ripon. Cllr Liz Minkin wrote on 15 February to both the Chair of Governors and to the Bishop of Ripon to explain our concerns.

Local residents went to see the Powerleague premises in Barnsley and were not impressed by what they found. Peter Owen took these pictures:

Click here to see a slide show of the Barnsley Powerleague facilities.

Social issues

Abbey Grange is a Church of England High School which draws its pupils from all over Leeds. Many of them arrive by bus or car and leave promptly when the school closes in the afternoon. The school has been happy to adopt the extended schools agenda where this involves "passporting" its own pupils into schools that are nearer to their homes, but it has been reluctant to engage with the local communities and welcome them into Abbey Grange. This is a pity because the surrounding area has considerable social needs.

The map below shows an extract from the Indices of Deprivation 2007, which are national statistics that people can download from the Leeds City Council website. They are based on census returns, updated with pensions and benefit claims, crime, education, health, housing and environmental information. This map shows composite results, taking all these factors into account.

The map shows that the Powerleague proposals (purple) on the Butcher Hill playing fields (bright green) would take recreational land from relatively disadvantaged communities that can ill-afford to pay £5 - £10 per person per session for facilities they presently enjoy at little cost. The major benefits would accrue to the Powerleague company, and to people who are considerably better-off. These deprivation statistics have been reported consistently for several years and there is no reason to believe that local needs are illusory.

The position is confirmed by the ACORN statistics for local schools, which have been provided by Education Leeds. ACORN is based on national census data and shows the percentage of children at each school whose families fall into different income categories. Relevant data are tabulated below:

ably Off

Abbey Grange CoE






Lawnswood School






all Leeds schools






It is not right that a fairly prosperous Church of England High School should be making money at the expense of people who are demonstrably worse off. This doesn't seem a very Christian thing to do, and we hope the school might reconsider its position.

Community Use

The Powerleague proposals provide for a limited amount of "subsidised" community use by local children at off-peak times. There is no subsidised use by adults. The following figures are those provided to Sport England for the "modified" scheme, and differ slightly from those advertised during the first public consultation by the school. In our view this offer is inadequate, and no compensation for the considerable loss of public open space.

FacilityUseProposed Timetable and Hours of Operation
Monday to FridaySaturday2Sunday2

Five-a-side pitches


08.00 - 16.00





16.00 - 18.00

2 pitches

2 pitches

League and Social

18.00 - 22.45

09.00 - 22.00

09.00 - 22.00

Seven-a-side pitch


08.00 - 16.00





16.00 - 18.00



League and Social

18.00 - 22.45

09.00 - 22.00

09.00 - 22.00



09.00 - 16.00




16.00 - 23.203

09.00 - 23.203

09.00 - 22.503



Includes after school clubs, school team training, community youth soccer, coaching schools and birthday parties



Two pitches are available for free community use to supervised groups under 16 years of age provided the organisers are making nothing more than a nominal charge for participation. Powerleague allows access free of charge to local children from the immediate area where pitches are not booked against a free card registration system so that we know who is on the pitches for reasons of public liability insurance cover.



Standard hours to be operated for licensed premises, closing at 11pm (10.30pm on Sunday) with 20 minutes drinking up time.

There is one very important message that we need to get across. Butcher Hill is not a conventional school playing field, but a Public Park to which Abbey Grange High School has shared access. There is no fence around the site, and no visible demarcation to show the boundary of the school's interest. Quite often the school teams play on the public pitches, and the public make use of the school facilities, especially the all weather surface. Generations of local people have been free to roam across the land, and do not want to see it fenced off to feed the profits of a private developer.

Who owns what?

The boundary of the school's land was fixed in the 1990s, when Abbey Grange temporarily opted out of Leeds City Council control and tried to "go it alone" as a direct grant school. This didn't work out and after a while the school re-joined "Education Leeds", but the land ownership was fixed. Click here to download a PDF file showing local land ownership. The big squares on the map show a 100m grid. Note that the school must cross over Leeds City Council land, and therefore need the council's permission, in order to get vehicles onto their site.

Site Investigation Works

Many local residents were concerned when drilling teams appeared on the site in mid August 2008. Some people feared that Powerleague were already starting building work. The crews were a little reluctant to say who they were working for, and we got various 'cock and bull' stories out of them, but they eventually admitted that Powerleague were paying for the job.

These were site investigation works - shallow bore holes to check on the subsoil and ground conditions generally. They confirmed that these playing fields were laid out on fly ash, almost certainly from Kirkstall Power Station, about 50 years ago. Site investigation works are not development, although they should have got permission from the council to drive over the land. The school have still not applied for permission from the School Assets Team (for details see below) to lease their land to Powerleague, and Powerleague have not yet applied for planning permission from Leeds City Council (for details, see below) so nothing more can happen legally for quite a while.

We suspect that Powerleague might lie low for a bit and then try to spring something when they hope nobody is looking, but we are watching them night and day. Read on for details of the public consultation processes...

Public Consultation

Two entirely separate consultations are required before this scheme could proceed:

The first public consultation started on 18 February 2008 and the mimimum duration of ten term-time weeks was completed on 16 May. The first consultation only deals with education, community use and financial issues. Planning matters are not considered at this stage. This consultation is managed by the School Governors. They are answerable to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (currently Ed Balls MP) who controls the sale or lease of School Playing Fields (SPF) under section 77 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998.

The headteacher, Mr Alan Key, started the first consultation with a letter to local councillors. Hopefully we will persuade the governors to abandon the scheme, but if they decide to submit a planning application there must be at least another three weeks (and probably very much longer than this) for the second public consultation when people can submit their planning objections.

Cllr Illingworth sent an initial email response on 5 March, and Cllr Minkin also wrote to the Headteacher and Chair of Governors a few days later. Many people who contacted the Diocese have received a standard reply from the Diocesan Board of Education on behalf of the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.

Most Abbey Grange pupils live outside the immediate area, making it difficult to communicate with their families and to draw them into a debate. The school holds the parents' addresses, and people are concerned that pupils and parents might only hear the governors' side of the argument. The Council's senior data protection officer has given legal advice that the Data Protection Act allows the school to forward local concerns to the pupils and their families.

Please respond to the first consultation by writing to Mr Alan Key, Headteacher, Abbey Grange C of E High School, Butcher Hill, Leeds LS16 SEA or by email to info@abbeygrange.leeds.sch.uk.

The second public consultation has not yet started. It will deal with planning issues, such as green belt, noise, appearance, lighting and the loss of public open space. This consultation will be managed by Leeds City Council, who are the Local Planning Authority.

Local green belt (click the image to enlarge)

These are protected playing fields controlled by Planning Policy Guidance 17 (PPG17) and they are located in the Green Belt, where there is a presumption against built development. The main local green belt is in the Aire valley, but a branch runs up Oil Mill Beck through Hawksworth Woods, takes in the Butcher Hill fields and follows the beck across the ring road towards Horsforth station. The most relevant local planning policies are in volume 2 of the Revised Leeds Unitary Development Plan, which can be downloaded from the Leeds City Council website. We have prepared a short abstract containing some key local policies.

There is a also a "guide to the guidance" Assessing needs and opportunities: a companion guide to PPG17, which is five times longer than the original guidance! It recommends a detailed audit of local provision and local needs. As far as we are aware Leeds City Council has not prepared one of these, so maybe this is something that local people need to do for themselves.

If the scheme were abandoned at stage one then the second consultation would not be required. If the school win round one, residents can block this at round two. If the school won an Appeal (unlikely), the council owns the strip of land on the roadside, and can refuse vehicular access to the car park.

Although we hope the governors will abandon this scheme, it is important to participate in BOTH consultations if it goes any further. Comments will not be copied from one consultation to the next. Please try to focus on the main themes for each consultation: school and community issues for the first, planning issues for the second. There is some detailed advice below. People are most welcome to use any material from this website, but it is often better to write from your own personal experience. Say why this area is important to you. This will make your letter unique and increase its significance. A few well-chosen truths, written from the heart, are often more effective than pages of legal argument. Sport England issued some informal guidance on both the first and the second consultations in July 2005.

Sport England

Powerleague approached Sport England on 10 April 2008. The drawings shown to Sport England differ from those in the developer's brochure that were used for the first public consultation. Sport England have released the relevant drawings and correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act. The initial response from Sport England on 14 May 2008 asked for more details of community use, and criticised the car park, the loss of existing grass pitches and the inadequate female changing facilities. As a result Powerleague submitted revised plans to Sport England, which attempt to remedy some of these defects by intensifying their use of community land outside the notional boundary of the school pitches.

The developers revised plans superimposed onto an aerial photograph. The bar and changing rooms are marked in red.

The revised scheme moves the development further to the west, in order to accommodate additional pitches and / or running tracks on the public area to the east. This appears to threaten the line of mature trees bordering the fields, since even if the fence manages to avoid the tree trunks, the roots and branches are likely to suffer disturbance during the construction work.

Click here to download the drawings and correspondence with Sport England in PDF format.

Local residents have pointed out that the Ben Kelly who wrote to Sport England on behalf of Powerleague actually works for a limited liability partnership (LLP) called Planning Perspectives. It is interesting to visit their website and study the kind of work they do, and the sort of companies that they normally represent. Kirkstall and Weetwood residents should feel honoured that such big guns are deployed against them.

Here is what Planning Perspectives say about the five-a-side soccer facility that they promoted at Queens' School in Hertfordshire:

"At Queens’ School planning permission was secured for a new soccer centre comprising a pavilion with changing rooms, a bar and administrative offices and 12 all-weather, floodlit courts. The application was promoted by way of a joint venture with the Governors of the school. As with most Powerleague projects Planning Perspectives acted as co-ordinator of the project team which included other professional disciplines brought on board to address other specific technical issues. In particular, the Council expressed concerns about the effect of the development on the surrounding highway network and the impact on residential amenity arising from floodlighting and noise. There was a need to liaise closely with Sport England, especially where existing grass pitches are to be lost. However, Sport England now recognises the considerable benefits associated with Powerleague’s developments; particularly in terms of social inclusion. Queens’ School was sited in the Green Belt which raised a number of difficulties. Although sport and recreation uses are encouraged in the green belt, “development” is not. Accordingly, it was necessary to fully justify the “essential” nature of the pavilion and the extensive areas of fencing and floodlighting. The new pavilion was justified due to the need to differentiate between grass and all-weather changing facilities and the need to provide social facilities for both spectators and players. Despite an officer’s recommendation to refuse planning permission the Members were convinced that Queens’ School’s need represented "very special circumstances" which justified a relaxation of Green Belt policy. Planning permission was subsequently granted. The Secretary of State decided not to call-in the application."

It is good to see such concern for the community reflected in the planning applications subsequently received by Hertsmere Borough Council:

Applic ID:

TP/2005/0961 Category Delegated Ward Name: Bushey North


Powerleague Group, Queens School, Aldenham Road, Bushey, Hertfordshire, WD23 2TY


1. To extend the terminal hour on fridays and saturdays only to 1.00am the following morning for private functions.
2. To allow accompanied children under 16 to be permitted in the bar.

Community views

The Powerleague plans are opposed by three local community associations: Spen Hill Residents' Association, West Park Residents' Association and the Moor Grange Action Group. Hundreds of local residents have written objecting to the proposals, but many of these letters were incorrectly addressed because the school did not publish details of the consultation process. Joint meetings are now being held to coordinate the local response. Click here to download a brief summary of local views on the first consultation. The second consultation has not yet started so it is too soon to write about the planning issues. For the time being people should write to the school [Mr Alan Key, Headteacher, Abbey Grange C of E High School, Butcher Hill, Leeds LS16 SEA or by email to info@abbeygrange.leeds.sch.uk] but if you receive no acknowledgement then please complain to the School Assets Team, as described in detail below.

Detailed guidance for the first consultation

The Department for Children, Schools and Families is well aware that these are highly contentious issues and will check that the governors do their job properly. The Secretary of State has issued guidance about this process (revised as part of "Building Schools for the Future") which was last updated in July 2006. MS Word versions can be downloaded from Teachernet, but you can download a more compact PDF version here.

More information about the role of the Secretary of State can be obtained from the School Assets Team, Department for Children, Schools and Families, Mowden Hall, Staindrop Road, Darlington DL3 9BG. Telephone 01325 392136. Email: andrew.kimmel@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

The government guidance is broken down under three headings: (1) schools' needs, (2) community use, and (3) finance. We have retained the original paragraph numbers, but greatly shortened the text. Users can download the full version by clicking the links provided.

Government SPF guidanceCommunity comments

44. The Secretary of State’s expectations ... are based on the Department’s recommendations for:

The total "mowed" area to the south of Butcher Hill is about 74,000 sq metres, including 10,000 sq metres "all weather" provision (which counts double) plus a substantial area of crags, trees and wildlife habitat along the border of the railway. This land has never been the exclusive preserve of Abbey Grange School, but forms part of a public park, open on all sides, which serves some of the most disadvantaged areas in the locality.

Quality of grassed team game playing fields (sports pitches)

45. The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 (‘the SPRs’) set out the quality requirements for school playing fields...

Local playing fields are available to Abbey Grange High School for at least 35 hours per week, which far exceeds the school's requirements.

Total site and playing field area

46. The total site area ... is that provided in The Department’s Building Bulletins 98 and 99.

The number on roll is 1250, for which the expected site area is between 79,000 and 89,000 sq metres. The school buildings are a loose fit on the main site north of Butcher Hill, which is about 30,000 sq metres in total, resulting in a "float" of about 12,000 sq metres.

Paragraph 47 is not relevant.

48. ...the applicant must calculate the total area of playing field provision which would be recommended if that school were a new school...

The recommended area is 55,000 sq metres of grass playing fields plus 3,000 sq metres of hard surfaced games courts.

Paragraphs 49 - 52 are not relevant.

Other schools' needs

53. ...the Secretary of State considers that other local schools should have access to at least the minimum amount of team game playing fields...


54. ...where there is a deficit, it is for the applicant to demonstrate ... why the playing fields ... should not be used to make up that deficit. ...it would seem reasonable to include all schools ... that are within ... a radius of ½ mile in respect of primary schools ... secondary schools within a 1 mile radius.

Hawksworth Wood Primary (190 pupils) is within half a mile and Lawnswood High School (1550 pupils) is within one mile. On site playing pitch provision at both of these schools is inferior to that available to Abbey Grange High School.

Alternative playing field uses

55. The Secretary of State recognises that there is a wide range of uses for playing fields. In determining whether schools' needs are met, he will consider whether there is a balance of these uses within the school playing field provision.

The list of alternative uses does not include a car park, bar and drinks licence. Use of scarce public playing fields for alcohol-fueled stag nights with "adult" entertainment is not part of the National Curriculum and it should not be supported.

56. Department’s BB98 and BB99 includes recommended areas for:

  • ...grass pitches and artificial surface pitches;
  • hard surface games courts for non-team and skills practice...
  • hard play (informal and social areas), including playgrounds not marked out for formal team games;
  • soft play (informal and social areas), including grassed areas, paved areas (including playgrounds), paths and outdoor seating;
  • float (marginal areas), which can be used ... to address the individual priorities of each school, and
  • habitat areas for gardens, trees, wildlife, livestock enclosures, and nature trails.

All the other activities are provided on the main school site to the north of Butcher Hill, but the Powerleague development would leave the school seriously short of conventional grass pitches, for example for athletics and cricket. It appears that the school intends to invade the public area adjacent to the Powerleague site, and to take away from those in greater need even the little bit that they presently enjoy.

57. ... playing fields as an 'outdoor classroom'...


58. Applicants should demonstrate that the school’s needs in each of these areas are fully met ... recommended sizes for each area ... are set out in BB98 and BB99.


59. ... an applicant is also expected to show that ... other local schools ... do not have a deficit...


The curriculum

60. ...Applications ... should give a detailed assessment of the impact ... on ... the curriculum ... at www.teachernet.gov.uk/curriculumanalysis.


Equal opportunities

61. Proposals ... should take into account the needs of pupils with disabilities.

Other than the disabled toilet, it is difficult to identify any effective provision for disabled users in these proposals.

We are dismayed by the lack of gender equality, since the male changing and showering area is approximately four times larger than the corresponding female facilities.

Balancing indoor and outdoor sports provision

62. ... Applications ... should assess whether the right balance would be struck between ... between natural grass, all-weather and hard court provision...


Asset Management Plan

63. All applications will need to show how they fit within the authority’s strategic Asset Management Plan. Applications should also show how the proposed disposal, or change of use, fits into the authority’s strategic school organisation plan, together with the authority’s overall sports strategy plan, including sports provision at its schools.


Consultation (schools)

64. The Secretary of State expects that the applicant should consult those likely to be affected by the proposals. He would expect, for example, that as a minimum, the applicant would consult and take into account the views of:

  • parents of pupils attending the school...
  • other schools in the local area that do not have access to at least the minimum ... set out in the SPRs...
  • other schools that may share a campus or common border...

(See ‘Consultation (general)’ at paragraph 83 for further details of the level of consultation expected.)

We are not convinced that parents, most of whom live outside the local area, are getting an accurate account of these proposals from the school.

Paragraphs 65 and 66 are not relevant.


67. The Secretary of State considers that school premises are a resource not only for pupils, but also for the wider community. Local education authorities and schools should seek out opportunities to develop their community role, not least because appropriate community use can improve pupils' attainment and help to bring about among parents and other local people a sense of ownership of, and belonging to, the school...

At present school and community use Butcher Hill fields. Powerleague will remove a substantial area from community use. Powerleague would weaken community use of the school fields but strengthen the use of the school fields for profit making business purposes.

68. In many locations the school is the main, or even only, place that can provide the local community with sports and other facilities. Using the local school as a centre for adult learning, childcare facilities and for meetings helps regenerate and strengthen communities...

Abbey Grange will only use the Powerleague site until 4.30pm, then 'Community' will get use from 4.30pm until 6pm. The majority of the time - evenings and weekends, the site will be used by men who are neither at the school nor from the local community.

69. The Department’s joint publication with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport A Sporting Future for All states that the Government "will work to extend opportunities beyond the school day by encouraging schools to provide a range of after school activities for all pupils whatever their age or ability." Paragraph 7.15 of A Sporting Future for All goes on to say:

‘It is important that young people of all abilities have the opportunity to have access to high quality physical education and sport provision outside school hours. Out of school hours clubs and activities offer great scope for schools to form partnerships which will broaden and strengthen the range of opportunities available to all young people.’

Under the Powerleague scheme school would have use of the site for 40 hours per week approx. Community would have use (only if registered with powerleague and paying) for 7.5 hours per week approx. Hirers (design plan suggests these would be mostly men) from all over Leeds - not from the local community would have use of the site approx. 48 hours per week (including drinking in the bar time). This does not fit with the Sectretary of State's guidance.

70. The Secretary of State, therefore, expects applicants to have taken into account not only those after school activities and out of hours clubs that already exist, but to have considered the scope for using the land in question to help further develop such schemes and links with the local community. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate that, where proposals include a permanent loss of playing fields, any existing after school activities will not be adversely affected.

At present the school has very limited links with the local community, because it has a city-wide catchment and most of the families live some distance away. The school is not operating as an "extended school" because most children arrive and leave by bus. Nevertheless, it would be possible to do considerably more, and this option would be closed off if the playing fields were leased to a commercial operator.

71. It is the Department’s view that only authorised community use of playing fields should be taken into account, whether or not such authorised use is covered by formal or informal agreements. Such use may be by:

  • local sports clubs for practice or the playing of arranged games;
  • local youth and community groups for sport or recreation, for example local scout groups;
  • nursery, pre-school and day care groups;
  • after school and out of hours groups;
  • groups involved with educational programmes run in partnership with schools;
  • charitable groups for fetes, sports days, and other fund raising events on an annual or more regular basis.

72. There may be a misconception in the local community that school playing fields are public parks and, therefore, are open to any public access and use. School playing fields are provided primarily for the physical education and enjoyment of children attending the school... The Secretary of State will not take into account unauthorised uses when considering an application. Such unauthorised uses include:

  • local residents exercising and walking dogs;
  • unauthorised ‘kick-around’ by local children or as a golf practice range by local residents
  • use as an unofficial picnic, camping, or caravan site.

The Butcher Hill playing fields are designated green belt and public open space, which is shared between the school and local community. The site is open on all sides and there is no fence or visible boundary between land that notionally "belongs" to the school, and that which notionally "belongs" to the public. The single cricket pitch is in the 'public' area, there are shared soccer pitches in the 'school' area and the athletics track extends over both areas. People do not require 'authorisation' to enter or cross this land, and the school is unable to restrict or prevent it. There is no 'misconception' here: this land is a public park, to which the school has shared access.

73. The Secretary of State expects, therefore, all applications for consent under section 77 to dispose, or to change the use, of school playing fields to detail exactly the existing community use of those fields. The question of potential additional future community use falls within the remit of the planning process, of which Sport England is an integral part and a statutory consultee on proposed developments on school playing fields.


Consultation (local community)

74. The Secretary of State intends to ensure that applicants have consulted all those most likely to be affected by the proposal. So, for example, groups with permission to use the playing fields should be consulted, whether they do so by virtue of formal or informal agreements. The local community generally should also be consulted. (See ‘Consultation (general)’ at paragraph 83 for further details of the level of consultation expected.) The Secretary of State expects applicants to be open about their proposals, therefore, applications should, in general, be open to scrutiny on demand by the local community and other consultees.

The Dalesman Pub have a team that play on Butcher Hill fields, as do Milford Sports Club, Leeds Metropolitan University and others. The applicant has not yet contacted the Dalesman team and we doubt that they have contacted any of the other groups who use Butcher Hill fields.

75. Where current community users would be displaced if the proposal were implemented, the Secretary of State expects the application to include a complete and full account of the effect on those users: in particular, whether their activities can realistically be moved to an alternative site on terms which do not adversely affect them. So, for example, applicants should make clear whether charges at the alternative venue are higher than at present. Applicants should, in any event, be prepared to put forward a strong case saying why consent should be granted where realistic alternative venues cannot be provided. Where community users have already been displaced by the fencing off or closure of school playing fields, the Secretary of State expects those users to be consulted as part of the wider consultation.

If the Powerleague scheme went ahead the other users would lose access. There is no realistic alternative to Butcher Hill fields for community users. Community users will be displaced. Some men's football teams will have the option of paying the higher prices to use the Powerleague site.

Powerleague are a big powerful company walking all over local communities. The Barnsley photos show that Powerleague are sited near a council estate. Powerleague would not dare try and put one of their sites in a residential area in Scarcroft or Wetherby. Yet they seem to think its OK to stick one of their sites amongst council tenants and walk all over people living on council estates.


76. No application under section 77 will be considered unless it sets out the proposed financial implications, including any expected proceeds or benefits and their intended destination. The Secretary of State will expect any net proceeds arising from the disposal of school playing fields, or any benefits in kind, to be used towards specific projects to improve, or enhance, sports or educational facilities at or for schools. Applications for consent should provide an assurance that proceeds will be ring-fenced for these purposes.

Abbey Grange C of E High School has provided no clear information to the local community about its intended use of the revenue proceeds.

Powerleague are making the bulk of the profit. Their profits run into millions.

77. In the case of operating schools, where the disposal or change of use involves an area to be sold that is capable of forming at least a sports pitch, the Secretary of State has a strong expectation that any net proceeds will be applied as follows:

  • to enhance or improve on site outdoor sports or leisure facilities;
  • to enhance or improve outdoor sports or leisure facilities at or for other local schools, where the school disposing of the playing field already has available to it facilities of sufficiently high quality for school and community use;

Otherwise, it is for the applicant to persuade the Secretary of State that proceeds should be used to:

  • to enhance or improve on site indoor sports or leisure facilities;
  • to enhance or improve indoor sports or leisure facilities at or for other local schools, where the school disposing of the playing field already has available to it facilities of sufficiently high quality for school and community use.

Exceptionally, where proceeds are not to be used for sports or leisure facilities, the applicant must convince the Secretary of State of the need to re-invest proceeds to enhance or improve on site educational facilities, or, where the facilities are already of a sufficiently high quality, to improve educational facilities at other schools within the authority’s control, particularly schools in the local area.

We assume that the school will argue that the construction of the facilities themeselves is the main tangible benefit from this scheme, but many of these features (e.g. floodlights, car park, changing and bar facilities) provide little or no benefit, either to the school or to the surrounding community.

The facilities will be closed to the school at evenings and weekends, and the proposed charges for evening or weekend use are beyond the means of many local people.

78. Proposals to re-invest proceeds to provide new sports or leisure facilities should also take into account the sustainability of those facilities over a ten year period. Applicants should provide evidence of how they will manage the maintenance, repair and replacement of such things as playing surfaces and sports halls, having regard to the frequency and type of use that will be made of the new facilities.

We assume that the leaseholder will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of all the facilities, although this is not explicit. Leeds City Council is still responsible for maintaining the other half of the site, although it makes little sense to have two separate grounds maintenance contracts.

Paragraphs 79 and 80 are not relevant.

81. It is the Department’s view that enhancements to educational facilities should include capital projects to help drive up standards and replace old schools, but not general repairs to school buildings or to supplement day to day running costs...

This project appears to generate an income stream, rather than a capital receipt, so it will be very difficult to know what it has been spent on.

Paragraph 82 is not relevant.


83. When carrying out consultation about proposals to dispose of playing fields, particularly areas used, or which could be used, as one or more sports pitches, applicants should remember that it was local concerns that prompted legislation to protect playing fields used by schools. It is with this in mind that the Secretary of State expects prospective applicants to consult fully on their proposals prior to submission for consent. What, in the Secretary of State's view, represents full consultation is described below. Applications will normally need to satisfy these expectations.


Duration and timing

84. The Secretary of State ... would expect a consultation period of not less than 10 term-time weeks. ... The consultation exercise should be open in seeking views and comments, not simply canvas for support or opposition to proposals. It should also be clear ... exactly which area of land is to be lost. ...

The headteacher initiated the consultation by writing to the local councillors, but the school governors do not appear to have contacted many other people about this scheme.


85. The Secretary of State further expects that, as part of the consultation, prospective applicants will seek views from:

  1. the Headteacher, governing body, teachers (particularly the Head of PE) and parents of pupils attending the school in question, where it will continue as an operating school, and any other school using the field for the purposes of the school, or which has used the field for the purposes of the school at any time during the past 10 years (except those using the playing fields because their own playing fields were unavailable to them temporarily); and
  2. where there is land capable of forming at least a sports pitch, the Headteacher or governing body of a maintained or maintained special school within the local area (as set out in paragraph 54), whether they use the playing fields concerned or not; and
  3. the Headteacher or governing body of any school that shares a campus or common border with the school in question; and
  4. any group or organisation with permission to use the playing field, whether by virtue of a formal agreement or otherwise (perhaps via the school), or that has used the playing field (where records permit); and
  5. the local community generally (perhaps through a newspaper notice or targeted letter mailings); and
  6. any minor authority in whose area the playing field is situated (such as a district, town or parish council); and
  7. the local authority, where the proposal is being made by a governing body or foundation body, and
  8. the local authority in whose area the playing field is situated, if that is different from the local authority intending to dispose, or to change the use, of the playing field.

As far as we are aware, neither Hawksworth Wood Primary School Governors nor Lawnswood High School Governors, nor any of the local sports clubs that share these fields have yet been consulted by Abbey Grange Governors about these proposals.

86. The Secretary of State would expect to see evidence that the relevant groups have been consulted and the results of those consultations. The Secretary of State ... may ask for additional consultation before making a decision on the application.

The school has made only limited attempts to consult with anybody, and almost all the publicity for the proposals has been generated by outraged local residents.

Applicant’s comments on consultation responses

87. It is for the applicant to demonstrate, as part of their case, that either the application enjoys local support or that local concerns have been given the fullest consideration. They may do so by providing a summary of the points raised during consultation and their comments upon them. Copies of responses may be attached to applications, but there is no requirement to do so. Issues concerning planning matters are not for the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. Material relating to such matters should, wherever possible, be excluded from the application.

We are not aware of any significant support for this scheme outside the school governing body.

Detailed guidance for the second consultation

The Powerleague proposals raise some important planning issues, and a vigorous debate seems likely if a planning application is ever submitted. A team of senior Leeds City Council Planning and Development Officers have prepared some initial planning guidance for the Kirkstall councillors, which can be downloaded here. In summary, they say:

In addition to the fundamental planning policy objections listed above, LCC officers have other concerns about the proposal:

If necessary, we will look at planning policies in greater detail. For the time being, the Kirkstall councillors are concentrating on stage one of the public consultation process.

Last updated 29 November 2008 at 20:47. Back to the top

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Promoted by John Illingworth, 37 Kirkwood Way, Leeds LS16 7EU