We have written before about the long saga of the Royal Park Primary School site.

It is a story which goes back into the previous LibDem/Tory administration in Leeds. It has dragged on for many years.

But, at last, there is an outcome which offers a positive way forward for the local community.

The future of the site has been secured by local Councillors.

Jonathan Pryor, Labour's candidate for May 2014, with Janette Walker and Neil Walshaw
Jonathan Pryor, Labour’s candidate for May 2014, with Janette Walker and Neil Walshaw

Councillor Javaid Akhtar, along with Neil Walshaw, Janette Walker and other colleagues on the Inner North West Area Committee have guaranteed that the Royal Park School site in Hyde Park will be kept as a community space.

The former primary school has been empty and derelict for nearly 10 years despite numerous attempts to redevelop the building. Local action groups have led a remarkable and dedicated campaign to retain the building, but no proposals were ever able to get off the ground.

Councillors worked hard with the local community to try to save the building. But it was in a poor state of repair and at serious risk from break-ins, theft, vandalism and arson. Demolition, alas, became unavoidable, and work is now underway to clear the site.

Royal Park was a much-loved building, and local Councillors have been determined to preserve what could be saved. They have worked closely with the Council’s Asset Management Service and the community to ensure that re-usable items and objects of sentimental value were removed prior to demolition commencing. These include the friendship bench, external artwork and various items from within the building.

But there’s a phoenix from these ashes.

The Council has reiterated its commitment to retain the site for community use. The site will be developed into a community green space alongside the adjacent parkland and basketball courts.

Janette Walker and Neil Walshaw, Headingley Councilors, have joined their colleagues in Hyde Park to welcome this proposal. They are determined to ensure the community is fully consulted on any plans put forward.

Councillor Javaid Akhtar (Chair of Inner North West Area Committee) said:

“It is a great shame that we were unable to save the Royal Park School building, but after a decade of campaigns and proposals and a lot of money and manpower no solution has been reached which all parties agree with. The building was beyond economical repair in many respects and the cost of protecting it from vandalism and other damage was too much of a burden in these difficult times. It became a blight on the landscape and has hindered our ambitions to improve Hyde Park.
But he stressed
“We guarantee that the site will be used as a community space and we have opposed plans to redevelop the site. The expansion of the existing park will create a new green space in the centre of the community which I am sure families will love. I am excited to work with my fellow Councillors, Council officers and the local community to secure a long-term future for the site which will serve as a springboard for the regeneration of Hyde Park and the wider area.”

Green space is certainly at a premium in the more central parts of Leeds. Janette and Neil have been at work preserving and enhancing the green spaces in Headingley at Sparrow Park and the Rose Garden.

And the campaign for the Victoria Road sports facilities goes on.

As Jonathan Pryor, Labour candidate in Headingley, says

“Looking to the future a new space does provide a rare opportunity for our community. I’ll be working with residents to ensure that what comes next benefits all of us.”

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