Leeds: community opposition wins temporary reprieve for playing fields

Playing fields are a vital community resource

Playing fields are a vital community resource   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Iain Dalton, Chair, Save Fearnville Fields campaign

Community opposition, mobilised through the Save Fearnville Fields campaign, has forced a reprieve. The council has suspended until the New Year the seeking of permission to build a new ‘free school’ academy on the King George V playing fields.

Despite the council’s own consultation showing 69% opposition from respondents, council officers were recommending to push ahead with proposals.

But since the consultation closed, the campaign’s online petition has collected around 1,500 signatures opposing them.

With the support of Councillor Catherine Dobson of the ‘East Leeds Independents’, we took a deputation to Leeds council’s ‘Inner East Community Committee’.

Our local Corbynista MP, Richard Burgon, has written two open letters to council leader Judith Blake opposing the proposals. He states in his most recent one: “On this occasion I believe this proposal is wrong and the officers are wrong.”

This, together with the pressure from below, has meant that the other five local Labour councillors are opposing the proposals. The pressure has forced the council to delay the decision until the New Year.

But we know we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to keep up the pressure to force the council to drop the proposal to build on the fields once and for all.

We’re planning a big public meeting in January to help push forward the campaign and elect a formal steering committee, and we’ll be holding a demonstration on the fields if the council won’t back down.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 21 December 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.