A sandpit at a Huddersfield athletics club has been filled in, bringing an era to an end.

Longwood Harriers recently revealed that Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) wanted to shut the sandpit used for the long jump and triple jump at its base at Leeds Road Playing Fields.

The club was formed 135 years ago in 1888 and has been at Leeds Road for the last 60 years.

Eddie Berry, who has been a club member since 1963 and is now its president and a coach, said there was no need to shut the sandpit, fearing it’s part of a move to force the club to locate to the Princess Mary Athletics Stadium in Cleckheaton.

The sand has now been removed and the space filled with earth.

Eddie said: “It’s with regret that we have to report that KAL have carried out their threat to fill the long/triple jump pit at Leeds Road Playing Fields with soil.

“We believe that steps could have been taken to allay their ‘health and safety’ fears, but they have chosen to do nothing.  This, despite the fact that the decision to fill in the pit was taken around a year ago.

“If the danger was so bad, why did they not do anything in the intervening months? There has been a pit at Leeds Road for over 60 years and we don’t believe there has been any reported injuries in that time.

“We care about the club and athletics and want to keep provision in Huddersfield but who else does?

“Longwood Harriers have been in existence for 135 years and have in this time had a number of international athletes, notably world record holder Derek Ibbotson, and ironically, British champion long jumper Derek Brown. The loss of the last field event facility at Leeds Road gives the club a dilemma regarding the future.”

Eddie, 73, of Netherton, said: “Our club serves nearby areas such as Deighton, Fartown, Rawthorpe and Dalton so it’s crucial it stays here in Huddersfield. Cleckheaton may be only just over five miles away but it’s the main Leeds Road which is always clogged with traffic and it’s a real trek on public transport.

“My overriding aim in life is to encourage people into sport, not discourage them, and the best way to do that is to make facilities as accessible as possible. Schools use our facilities for their sports days too. Once these facilities are gone they’ll never be replaced. Huddersfield will have lost them forever.”

The sandpit used to be protected by a cover but that was stolen during the Covid pandemic and at that time people started to use the sandpit as somewhere for their kids to play.

Eddie said Kirklees Active Leisure, which manages the site, feared people may dump syringes, glass and other potentially dangerous items in the sandpit and was worried someone could get hurt and then put in a claim for damages.

But he said the problem could have been solved simply by signs telling people not to use the sandpit as a play area and even rope it off or put up barriers.

He added: “When it comes to health and safety it’s all about managing risk – you can never get rid of all risk. There is always an element of risk on any sports field – football, cricket, rugby, anything – where a member of the public could have dumped something.”

In a statement, Kirklees Active Leisure said: “The open access nature of the site at Leeds Road unfortunately creates an increased health and safety risk, alongside reduced operational capacity available and additional cost pressures faced by KAL have sadly led to the rationale to remove the long jump pit at Leeds Road. 

“If ever the Leeds Road site can be made secure then re-instating the long jump pit would certainly be something KAL would consider doing, hence why it has been filled with soil, as a temporary measure.

“Longwood Harriers have been made aware of the good quality facilities available at the Princess Mary Athletics Track in Spenborough, but it is for the club to consider and decide if they wish to make use of this site.”

Eddie has always been involved in sport. He started his career as a PE teacher at the former Kirkburton Secondary School and then moved to Shelley High School in 1974. In 1985 he became a sport and leisure lecturer at the former Huddersfield Technical College and was promoted to Head of Sport and Leisure there until he retired in 2008.

Eddie is married to Christine and the couple have a daughter, Fiona, and son Ian who has become an internationally-known artist for his striking work with denim.

Eddie used to take Ian down to Longwood Harriers and he became a good high jumper and hammer thrower, going on to clinch second place in the West Yorkshire Schools with the hammer. That ended when the club’s throwing area was closed several years ago after the council deemed it unsafe not long after it installed an all-weather football pitch in the centre of the running track.

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.