Leeds Park Covid Memorial approved despite ‘insult to injury’ comment
Councilors have given the green light to create a brand new Covid-19 memorial wood on the site of a former golf course in South Leeds.
Documents were released this month outlining plans for the former 99-acre South Leeds Golf Site in Middleton, claiming the all-new park would include a memorial wood to help remember those who died as a result virus.
A report from Leeds City Council agents claimed the larger site could also include school sports facilities.
READ MORE: Council insists it is ‘doing everything possible’ to contain huge Covid rates in Hyde Park
A senior opposition adviser criticized the move earlier in the week, calling the memorial a “fig leaf” to deflect criticism of the project, adding that such a memorial should instead be in the city center.
Council officials say the memorial forest covers 4.5 hectares and contains 9,000 trees, a wildflower meadow and wetland habitat. Part of the remaining 44 hectares of the old golf course could also be used to host sports facilities for the nearby Cockburn School.
Presenting the plans to the Leeds City Council Executive Council, Councilor Salma Arif said: “I am really delighted to present this. Everyone has had a difficult 18 months and it is important that we have a proper memorial to remember all of the friends and family we lost during the pandemic.
“We must also appreciate the efforts of frontline workers and key workers who continue to make us proud.”
She added that it will also “improve” the nearby Middleton Park as a destination.
The head of the conservative group of the council, Councilor Andrew Carter, welcomed the proposal, adding: “I hope we will see these kinds of initiatives spread throughout the city.”
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However, Councilor Stewart Golton, relying on his comments earlier this week, was less than happy with the plans.
He said: “What I object to is that the council is committing a very large amount of money into what is actually a tree planting program in a place that has a very high park. quality.
“Middleton Park is an exemplary recreational space for people. This is an exercise for the council to acquire land to plant trees.
“This is a time when the council has community parks that need to be cut. Many park employees have been drawn to better wages at Wakefield Council.
“I question the importance of the Memorial Forest in the presentation of this article – it presupposes what the people of Leeds would like to see as their Covid Memorial.
“I would suggest it would be somewhere a little more central.”
Councilor Arif replied: “The local and wider public will be very consulted on how this goes forward. These views will be taken into account.
The South Leeds Golf Club closed in November 2019, when the trustees were called in. The land, which had been leased by the club, was returned to the board in March 2020.
The report warned that the site is not currently managed and could become a magnet for fly dumping and illegal occupation if something is not done quickly.
Board members approved plans to launch a consultation on the new park and to devote £ 700,000 to the creation of the memorial wood.
It is hoped that work can begin on the new wood later this year, for an opening in February 2022.