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.