Silsden residents have pleaded with Bradford Council to scrap plans to sell a playing field in the town.
Over 1,500 people signed a petition calling for a halt to plans to sell the field next to The Hive Community Centre in the heart of the town. The petition was discussed at a meeting of Bradford Council last week.
Representatives from the Hive said the field was a vital outdoor facility for Silsden, and losing it would limit the number of play spaces in the growing town.
But Council bosses told the meeting that the sale of the field – a facility linked with the old Silsden Primary School, had always been on the cards, and was needed to help fund the village’s replacement school.
The Council agreed to sell the site in 2016, and the potential sale has already been approved by the Secretary of State.
Jill Cook, Centre Manager, spoke of the strong feeling at Tuesday’s full Council meeting. She said the Hive had become a “thriving” community centre, and that the field next to the centre was well used by numerous groups.
It meant children living on that side of Silsden didn’t have to cross busy roads to get to the town’s park. She said: “It has been used for community sports, by local children to play in and for community events.
“The park is a good walk away from this site, and you have to cross a busy road to get there.”
She said a recent audit into green space by Bradford Council found Silsden was lacking, and if the field was sold to a developer this would make things even worse.
Councillor Rebecca Whitaker (Cons, Craven) said: “The Council’s intention is to sell off this playing field for housing. Trust me, the last thing Silsden needs or wants is more housing. What it requires is more recreation space. The only other green space is Silsden Park, and that has had very little investment from Bradford Council. The Council should be using this site to fulfil its obligations to provide recreational space.
Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, Executive for regeneration, planning and transport, said he “fully understood” the strong feeling by residents.
He added: “We have to be honest, the playing field was always linked to the school. I fully accept that there was lots and lots of informal use by residents, but that (being part of the school) is how it is assessed.”
He said the primary school in the village had been split over three sites – two school buildings and this playing field site. These three sites were deemed surplus to requirements when the new replacement primary opened.
Cllr Ross Shaw said: “This new school will provide children in Silsden with new facilities for many years to come, and the feedback so far has been fantastic.
“It has always been the case that the sale of the existing school sites would help fund the new school. This is the process we had to go through.”
The sale of the two school sites and the field was necessary to pay of the loan used to provide the new school facility, he argued.
The petition will now go before the Council’s Executive for further debate.
After the meeting Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore said: “It is absolutely vital that we save the playing field adjoining the Hive in Silsden.
“It is a much-loved site which is regularly used by many constituents. It is horrifying to think Bradford Council are trying to ‘pull the wool over our eyes’ in their efforts to try and justify their position by saying the land is not needed as a playing field, just so that they can sell the land for housebuilding. I urge them to urgently recognise the huge benefits this green space has for both leisure and recreation, but also for health and wellbeing.”