Back on 3 March, I attended the City Plans Panel meeting as a local resident. At the meeting, representatives of Leeds Rugby, the current owners of Tetley Field, said they’d be submitting a planning application before the end of March to build houses on the Field. It’s now April and no application has yet been submitted.
Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Councillors on 3 March expressed some strong reservations about the pre-applications and, alongside an effective representation from Weetwood Residents Association, you can understand why Leeds Rugby might be having a rethink. Getting planning permission for the Field is clearly going to be very difficult for Leeds Rugby, and of course without planning permission the Field is of no value to them. I imagine that many local residents have therefore been wondering what Leeds Rugby are going to do next.
It may be some time before we, as local residents, get to hear about Leeds Rugby’s plans. It could actually be beneficial to all parties if local residents were to become more proactive. Otherwise we’re faced with a scenario where an application is eventually submitted, local residents mount effective opposition and a long planning battle follows. It doesn’t sound a very appealing prospect, neither for local residents nor developer.
So, my suggestion is that local residents should initiate a process about the longer-term future of Tetley Field, now, before a planning application is even submitted. To start with, I feel there needs to be an agreement or blueprint of what we as local residents actually want to see on Tetley Field in the future. This could then guide further conversations with Leeds Rugby about the future use, management, perhaps even ownership of the Field.
At the moment, all that local residents are agreed on is what we don’t want, ie development. To get the ball rolling, here’s what I personally would like to see in an ideal world:
- In general, retain and enhance the existing natural character of the Field and its existing use for informal recreation
- Removal of iron fence adjacent to both Meanwood Park and the right of way between Weetwood Avenue/Weetwood Mill Lane
- Removal of conifers – presumably originally planted as shielding for the rugby pitch, but out of character with the area
- Removal of the superfluous car park accessible from Weetwood Avenue; appropriate fencing/pedestrian access at this point
- Improvement of right of way underfoot and selective improvement of other paths
- Enhancement of wildlife habitats, eg birdboxes, logpiles
- Possible amenity improvements, eg dog waste bin(s), additional bench(es)
Moving on from this, how could positive improvements like this be achieved? I feel that there is a strong possibility that as long as the Field is in private ownership then planning permission will be sought for it. What if the Field was owned and managed by an organisation dedicated to the public interest? I’d like to pose the question initially of whether local residents would aspire to having a role in the future management and/or ownership of Tetley Field.
What would you like to see on Tetley Field in the future? Do you agree with my suggestions for what we do next, and further ahead? I’d be interested to hear any views from local residents.
I like this initiative on how to seek a new future for this land, and congratulate those who have fought the plans to build houses so as to further enrich Caddick who may then wish to invest his gains on other sporting activities. That LCC might enable this by encroaching on green belt is scandalous.
Dave Middlemass does raise an important question as to what the residents and City see as the future of this land, which needs considerable thought. There are landscape planning, financial, management and ownership issues to be considered by both the City and the residents of Weetwood Ward.
My initial thoughts are that
1. ownership should be with the City Council, possibly a purchase by LCC supported by a levy on Weetwood Ward households
2. management and investment could be through say a “Neighbourhood Development Area”, modelled on the Business Development Areas being now actioned in Leeds by LCC.
3. planning: clearly this needs land scape planning work so as to integrate the land into and much enhance Meanwood Park.
In summary LCC needs to be brought into this process in a proactive way, rather than simply defending citizens from further City blight, and I feel WRA is well positioned to enable this.
Stuart Archbold OBE
10 Weetwood Ave
Leeds LS16 5NF
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Many thanks for your comments Stuart. I agree entirely that ideally this should be a proactive process, and working with the Council and integrating the Field better with Meanwood Park makes total sense.
I fully support the current initiative and agree that now is the time to think and develop ideas for the future of this green field. I believe it should be integrated more fully with Meanwood Park and integral to this there should be arrangements made to ensure there is no need for a repeated battle to retain it as a green space for public use.
I endorse the comments made by Stuart Archbold and do not feel I can usefully amend them so please accept my support for the ideas and suggestions he has already posted.
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Thanks for your comment Elizabeth. Yes, I agree with your view about trying to avoid a repeated battle.
I agree that a proactive approach would be useful. I also agree that the “best” use of the land would be as a wild area rather than as something needing significant investment and maintenance. Although it would be good to provide public access to most of the site, it might be an idea to fence off some parts of it so that they can be left to develop a fully natural flora and fauna.
I like the idea of providing an access from Meanwood Park near the pond, and of removing some or all of the railings which devide the site.
I would retain the car park off Weetwood Avenue because there is insufficient parking space at the current access to Meanwood Park from Weetwood Avenue. There would, however, need to be some way of preventing unauthorised vehicles from getting into the site (remembering the problem with Travellers accessing the former Highbury cricket ground).
Regarding ownership, I fear that Council ownership, even if on offer, would not provide a guarantee that the site would never be sold off or developed. Some form of community ownership might provide a better safeguard. One option might be to make the ownership deliberately complicated by dividing the site into lots of very small parcels each owned by different people or organisations.
I wonder if Yorkshire Wildlife Trust might be interested in having a stake in the site ( I understand that they were approached some years ago but, at that time, the site was still fairly well maintained and had less of a “natural” feel to it than it now does).
I wonder if a case could be made for Lottery Funding to support purchase of the site as a wildlife reserve?
Do we have any idea of the value of the site assuming that the owners had no prospect of ever gaining planning permission?
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Peter – I agree that restricting access to some of the site for the purposes of nature conservation should be considered. Re the car park I take your point about local parking capacity – the question is how much do want to encourage/discourage people to visit the site by car. Thanks for all your comments, in particular your suggestions re ownership.
Hello, Although I have lived in Meanwood, Headingley and now West Park for 43 years, and am a moderately keen wanderer, I had no idea what this area looked like, or indeed how to find it. So, last night, I went on a search by car and happily discovered the site for myself. What I take to be the area that is to built upon was attractively wild, though detached from its surrounding location. Its current amenity value seems therefore rather low, an impression confirmed by the ad hoc tracks running judging by running through the field, which suggest low usage. A way should be found, I think, to integrate the field with Meanwood Park, as well of course with the adjacent ‘official’ footpath field. Retention of the car park is essential for wider access to the area. I can see no merit in building on the land. It should be taken into social ownership.
Many thanks for your comment. Just to mention initially that the application proposes development both on the main field and on the so-called “Paddock” through which the public right of way runs. Also, there has been substantial vegetation growth in the last few weeks which may give the impression that the Field is used less than it really is. Clearly, the iron fence divides the site up unnecessarily and would in an ideal world be removed, integrating the whole Field as you say with the Park. Just finally, if you haven’t already done so, please can you formally register an objection to the application, using the guidance at http://www.sogtetleyfield.com. Many thanks for your interest.
I support the comments and suggestions above, particularly suggestions about speaking with wildlife charities and keeping some areas with restricted. I walk the paths in the field and the surrounding woods on a daily basis. The joy of the meadow is the long grasses and ever increasing numbers of wild flowers which is a really valuable feeding and nesting ground for insects, birds and small animals. It would be a great shame to lose this space as a wildlife resource and I’d support any move to improve it as a wildflower meadow with paths around but not encroaching the area. There are already hedgehogs, frogs, toads, bees, dragonflies and damselflies, bats, butterflies, moths, bats and deer. We have herons, kites, buzzards and kingfishers too – and with a little care who knows what we could create!
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I agree strongly with the points made by both Stuart Archbold and Peter Bonsall, and most of the Blueprint. My quibbles regarding trees are that there are several mature Caledonian pines which I would regret losing, and that I would throw in my old idea of an area of Community Orchard. In days long past, when I was Chair of Weetwood RA, and when the Rugby Club had just acquired the Tetley Fields, I approached the Club on behalf of a group of Hollin View and Weetwood Avenue residents proposing the purchase by us of the Paddock area, which was clearly superfluous to the Club’s training area requirement, with the intent of making a joint ownership with titles, covenants and restrictions attached to the deeds of each contributing residence and making the area a Community Common Land, or some such title. Our approach was rebuffed in terms which made us (justifiedly) suspicious. I indeed asked Yorkshire Wildlife to inspect, which a very knowledgeable officer did, but his report about the diversity of the restricted area of the Paddock was disappointing and could not justify an intervention by them. I believe that that might have changed, even allowing for the bramble monoculture, and there is now of course for consideration the developing oak woodland on the old playing surface.
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Thanks John – it’s great to hear some historical context – will certainly help inform any approach in taking things forward.