Statement from Aspiring Communities Steering Group
As the planning process continues and we all await the application reaching a decision at the Plans Panel, we thought it would be useful to restate our position.
Firstly can we clarify the role of the steering group. We are not in charge of Aspiring Communities, which as a registered charity has its own governing committee. We are a group of local people who support what Aspiring Communities are trying to achieve and have come together to help them organise activities and programmes. We bring our experience of local organisations, but are members of the steering group in a personal capacity.
The centre that Aspiring Communities is seeking to build on the former Ice Pak factory site on Barkly Road, will comprise a sports hall with meeting rooms including a prayer room. We see this an asset for the community, especially since the closure of South Leeds Sports Centre. Sport is a particularly good way for young people to come together and mix socially as was shown by the Aspiring Communities summer sports programme in Cross Flatts Park last year.
We understand that people living near the centre are concerned about traffic. Unfortunately rising levels of car use is a fact of life these days. We do not consider that the centre will contribute disproportionately to the problem. Particular concerns have been raised about the start and end of the school day, but this will not be a peak time for usage at the centre. People will be using the centre for prayers especially on Fridays, but these are over long before the end of the school day. Activities for young people will, by necessity, be out of school hours.
Part of the feedback on the original plans was concern about on street parking. Aspiring Communities have gone out of their way to maximise the number of parking spaces on site to avoid this happening. They have also offered to let St Anthony’s Primary School parents use the car park to ease other pressures on Barkly Road. They are also open to letting Leeds United fans use it on match days, so long as it didn’t become a magnet for more motorists to park in Beeston instead of at the ground.
We are aware that there are a lot of rumours circulating in Beeston. For example that the community centre will in fact be a mosque and that it will be the international centre of the Sufi Naqshbandi branch of Islam with thousands of worshipers attending every week. This is not correct.
Aspiring Communities is associated with an annual gathering to mark the prophet’s birthday. For the past few years they have held this at the indoor athletics building at the John Charles Centre for Sport. In their original proposals for the Ice Pak site, Aspiring Communities hoped to build a centre big enough to accommodate this event. However the plans were scaled back in the light of community feedback and the centre currently proposed simply isn’t big enough to hold such an event.
Wilder rumours have suggested that the centre could encourage extremism. This is the very opposite of the greater integration and understanding that we are trying to achieve. We are working closely with officers from West Yorkshire Police who are keen to see more initiatives that prevent the isolation that can lead to radicalisation.
We ask everyone in the Beeston community to give this project the chance to prove itself and enrich all our lives.
26 April 2015
Rev Lindsey Pearson