March 26, 2014 | Community News
Work to renew the playground and fit out a new classroom at a West Yorkshire city farm has commenced after a £7,500 grant from a developer took the farm’s fundraising efforts past their target.
Meanwood Valley Urban Farm is replacing its ten year-old playground equipment with a selection of new items including wobble boards, an Inclined Twine balance beam, a Noughts & Crosses and a number of musical interactive panels, all of which are set within a safe ‘living willow’ enclosure.
And it is also now putting all the required fixtures, fittings and resources into a new classroom that has recently been added to the farm’s EpiCentre, which is the base for its wide-ranging environmental education services.
The play equipment and classroom fit-out are being funded through a £7,500 grant from developer Banks Property, via the Banks Community Fund, and both facilities will be officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Thomas Murray, on Tuesday 20 May.
Originally set up in 1980 to provide services to inner city communities, Meanwood Valley Urban Farm currently covers a 24-acre site two miles north of the centre of Leeds, and attracts around 47,000 visitors every year.
Run by a 60-strong team, most of whom are volunteers, the venue provides a working farm environment and is home to a wide range of animals, including a number of rare breeds.
Open as a leisure venue all year round, the farm also offers environmental education services to schools, holiday playschemes, conference facilities, allotments for local people and a study programme for unemployed 16-18 year-olds which helps them develop their core skills and learn new ones.
The farm also works in partnership with Leeds City Council’s Adult Social Care department in providing a community care scheme where adults with learning disabilities receive training in gardening, literacy and numeracy.
Farm director Sue Reddington says: “We keep our entry fees very low, so that everyone has access to the farm, which means that we need to raise much of our funding from other sources, and having invested so much in our new classroom project, we didn’t think we’d be able to take these projects forward for some time.
“The generous funding we’ve now received from Banks came at a wonderful time, and it will make a huge difference to the facilities that we’re able to offer visitors from the springtime and beyond.
“Our playground has always been really popular, but the equipment we had has really begun to show its age through being so well used. The introduction of new equipment will excite and stimulate children in imaginative play that promotes social interaction and helps with the development of balance and co-ordination.
“The environmental education service is delivered to over 10,000 children and teachers per year, and the new classroom will provide the base for school children participating in exciting hands-on projects such as Discovering Minibeasts, Rocks & Soils and Pond Dipping.”
Cllr Thomas Murray, Lord Mayor of Leeds, adds: “Having recently visited the farm and seen the condition of the old playground, it clearly need upgrading, and I’m delighted that Banks have contributed significantly to the restoration costs which will enable the work to be done soon, so that children will be able to enjoy the new facilities this summer.”
Banks Property is currently looking to secure planning permission for a new £20m residential property scheme on Station Road Methley, which would encompass 181 new family homes being built on a 7.7 hectare site.
A range of community and environmental benefits worth over £2m forms part of the overall development offer, and Banks has developed plans which would, if the Station Road scheme is approved, see them invest £1.1m improving local flood defences around the River Aire, which was identified as the highest priority for local people for the allocation of these funds.
Other ideas provided by local people for using the community benefits fund included payments towards educational improvements, affordable housing and housing for the elderly, improved public transport, and enhancements to public open space and to green infrastructure.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, says: “Meanwood Valley Urban Farm has such a positive impact on so many different parts of the local community, and the dedication of the team that runs it is a real inspiration.
“We hope all their visitors get as much as they can out of the new play equipment and classroom, and we look forward to seeing both of them being officially opened later in the Spring.”
Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks’ proposed Station Road, Methley development that are looking for capital funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund to see if their project is eligible on 0191 378 6342, or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/development-with-care/bankscommunityfund. Further information on the Station Road, Methley can be found at http://www.banksgroup.co.uk/mickletown/