Leeds City Council leisure services officers claim that a variety of national sporting bodies are backing a proposal to privatise the former Elida Gibbs sports ground in Burley, which currently belongs to the Council. This ground is used by Kirkstall Crusaders junior soccer teams, who have been offered alternative pitches at West Park. In future, it is proposed that the Elida Gibbs ground would be managed by a non-elected "independent" trust, and largely dedicated to women’s rugby, plus a some girl’s junior soccer. The ground would be "improved" with car parking, changing rooms and all weather playing surfaces. These proposals have encountered a generally hostile reaction from local residents, who clearly value their informal open space.
There is a live planning application 07/04246/LA from Jane Cash who is the playing field manager in the council's Leisure Services division. This was originally submitted on 3 July 2007, and at first seemed to be going nowhere. However the council's plannng website states that consultation notices were sent out on Christmas Eve, and that it was re-advertised on 3 January 2008, with a target decision date of 21 March 2008. Residents' objections (or messages of support) should be sent to email@example.com. Please remember to include the application number 07/04246/LA and your full contact details (including street address) or your comments may not be counted. It is not unknown for people to submit bogus letters to the planning department, so the officers try to make sure that their correspondents really exist.
Click here to download a copy of Cllr Illingworth's objection message. This message has all the basic essentials for a valid planning objection, and can be freely adapted to reflect your own particular views.
The sports pitches off Stanmore Terrace in Burley were acquired by the Council around 1983 though a land swap promoted by the Kirkstall councillors and engineered by George Mudie when he was Leader of Council. The ground originally belonged to Taylors Drug Company, whose original premises can still be seen on Burley Road nearby. In 1935 this firm became the retail chemists Timothy Whites and Taylors. They were subsequently taken over by Boots, and finished as part of the Elida Gibbs toothpaste and cosmetics conglomerate, which is now part of Unilever. There is a local myth that the name marks some bequest or trust, but these were ordinary commercial transactions. Elida Gibbs were moving to Seacroft and tried to sell their sports ground in Burley for house building. They were persuaded to pass it to the council, but acquired another council site in exchange.
Residents are right to be wary. Inner-city sports grounds are a favourite target for property developers, and this one is no exception. There are frequent approaches to the council with varying degrees of subtlety. Leeds Rugby have been chasing Elida Gibbs for many years for VIP parking on match days, and there are no guarantees about the allegiance and independence of the proposed management committee. There is a separate danger that the Rugby Academy at Bridge Road will migrate to Bramhope, citing the Elida Gibbs ground and "Goals" soccer off Redcote Lane as local replacement facilities for Burley and Kirkstall. The first class rugby pitches off Bridge Road would probably be incorporated into Morrison’s retail development.
Leeds Rugby Academy pitches and clubhouse at Bridge Road
All such schemes involve a net loss of scarce inner-city sports pitches in order to finance improvements in the outer suburbs. There is a serious shortage of inner city soccer and hockey pitches in Leeds for ordinary team players. This situation would not be helped by largely dedicating the Elida Gibbs ground to high-class women’s rugby. The best way to promote the women’s game would be to grant women equal access to the excellent Rugby Academy pitches at Bridge Road, where we have yet to see many female players on the land.
Last updated 29 November 2008 at 20:27. Back to the top
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