Two thirds of the Leeds Girls High site is covered by playing fields that have N6 Protected status in the Leeds Unitary Development. The remaining one third of the site is covered by listed buildings and the historic Main School Building opened by Princess Louise in 1906. The Protected Playing Pitches are located on three separate sites; the Chestnut Avenue site (also known as the Victoria Road site), the Main School and Rose Court site, and the Ford House Garden site.
The School originally applied to build on just two of the three Protected Playing Pitches (it intends retaining the Ford House Protected Playing Pitch for several more years for the use of its pupils). When the plans were submitted (on the 17th July 2008), the School claimed it’s OK to build on the Protected Playing Pitches as there’s a pitch at Spen Lane in West Park which local people can travel to. They also claimed that this pitch is only a 6 minute drive away or a 20 minute walk. They said that the current users of the pitch at Spen Lane could travel to pitches further north.
Whilst the plans very clearly state that the historic Main School Building is to be retained, close examination reveals that the School actually intends to demolish most of the building and retain just the façade.
Outline application to build on the main school site Protected Playing Pitch.
Change of use and extension, including part demolition of main school building and stable block to form 32 flats and 4 terrace houses.
Conservation Area application to demolish the rear and centre of the main school building and side extensions, 2 villas to the north west, the lean-to to stable block and greenhouse, and to remove 4 storage containers.
Outline application to build on the Chestnut Avenue Protected Playing Pitch (not including swimming pool and gym).
Full application to alter and extend Rose Court to form 8 flats and 4 terrace houses.
Listed building application to part demolish and extend Rose Court to form 8 flats and 4 terrace houses.
In September 2009, the School made slight revisions to the planning applications and began to claim that its own playing fields at Alwoodley, and new playing fields on Woodhouse Moor, would be adequate replacements for the loss of the Protected Playing Pitches. As a result of these changes, on the 1st October 2009, the Planning Department asked Plans Panel West to consider the Department’s request that the applications be put out again for further consultation. In view of the delay of over a year in bringing the applications to Panel, and the lack of detail, Plans Panel West was minded to reject the applications. Instead, they were persuaded by Principal Planning Officer Martin Sellens to defer making a decision until the School had supplied more information. He said that the School would be allowed two weeks to supply this information.
On the 5th July 2010, Sport England withdrew its statutory objection of the 1st February 2010 to development on the tennis courts (it had made an earlier statutory objection on the 18th August 2008). Immediately after this, on the 10th July 2010, the School submitted slightly revised planning applications. These went to Plans Panel West on 12 August 2010 and were to build on the Main School and Rose Court sites. The plan to build on the Chestnut Avenue playing field was held in reserve. The applications put forward involved knocking down 50% of the Main School Building opened by Princess Louise in 1905, and building on the park-like open space in front of the Main School Building and the six tennis courts. The School said that new tennis courts at Alwoodley were adequate replacements for the loss of the tennis courts at the Headingley site. Even though the proposal involves knocking down one half of the original Main School Building, the School’s application incorrectly claims that the proposal involves retaining all the original Main School Building, and this incorrect information was passed on to Plans Panel West by a planning officer on 12 August 2010. Drawings submitted by the School claim that the School Hall visited by suffragette Sophie Jex Blake in 1907 is a later addition, along with other parts of the original Main School Building they propose to demolish.
Outline Application for residential development
Change of use and extension including part demolition of school building and stable block to 32 flats and 4 terrace houses in Stable Block
Change of use involving alterations of Rose Court to form 12 flats
Listed Building application for alterations of Rose Court to form 12 flats
Conservation Area Consent for the demolition of rear and side extensions to main school building, lean-to to stable block and greenhouse, and removal of 4 storage containers
The Chief Planning Officer recommended approval of these applications in a report dated 12 August 2010.
Plans Panel West met on 12 August 2010 and deferred making a decision on the applications due to their need for further detail relating to :
- the 4 storey block; its height and relationship to the surrounding area
- the density of the site
- the extent of the demolition of the main school building
- the length of time for the lease of Ford House Gardens
- the loss of open space/playing pitches
- highways matters
On the 31st August, Sport England wrote a letter to planning officer Mathias Franklin reminding him that that the Local Planning Authority needs to ensure that the requirements of paragraph 10 of PPG17 are met.
On the 15th September 2010, South Headingley Community Association lodged a formal complaint with the council’s Chief Executive Tom Riordan about the Chief Planning Officer’s report.
Bill McKinnon also lodged a formal complaint with Tom Riordan on the 15th September about the Chief Planning Officer’s report.
In a new report dated 7 October 2010, the Chief Planning Officer once again recommended approval of the School’s planning applications, ignoring the warning from Sport England that the planning applications need to meet the requirements of paragraph 10 of PPG17, and all the points raised by South Headingley Community Association and Bill McKinnon in their formal complaints.