Monday, 9 November 2009

Leisure centre toning up with £500,000 improvements

Caption: Leeds City Council executive member for Leisure Cllr John Procter in the new Bodyline gym extension with Bodyline member Hayley Tomlinson

The gym at Scott Hall Leisure Centre in Leeds has been extended as part of a major £500,000 improvement project.

The Bodyline gym at the centre has been extended to allow greater access for customers, with the number of pieces of equipment available for use increased by over one-third to 66 along with a new sound system and televisions being put in place.

The second phase of the project starts on November 16th, when the major overhaul of the swimming pool changing rooms begins. This work will see the creation of a modern ‘changing village’ along with dedicated group changing rooms ideal for use by school classes and large groups. There will also be larger family changing rooms, a changing room for customers with disabilities, lockers for storage and a new heating and ventilation system installed.

In order to carry out the work, the swimming pool itself will close from Monday 16th November with the project expected to be completed by the end of March 2010. Throughout this time all other areas of the centre will remain fully operational as normal.

The improvements have been funded by Leeds City Council and Sport England, and Leeds City Council executive member for Leisure Councillor John Procter said:

“We are very pleased to be carrying out this significant range of improvements to Scott Hall Leisure Centre. We do apologise for any inconvenience during the temporary closure of the pool, but we are confident the improvements being carried out, along with the new facilities in the gym, will be greatly appreciated by customers. Leeds City Council is committed to enhancing people’s general health and wellbeing and hopefully improvements like this will encourage more people to come along and see what we have to offer.”


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Learning and Leisure Media Relations Officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Slither of excitement as Tropical World welcomes new arrivals

Caption: The albino Burmese Python is sure to be the centre of attention

Visitors to Tropical World in Roundhay are advised to be on their guard from this week as a group of slippery new exotic guests have moved in and made themselves at home.

The popular attraction in Leeds has recently taken on eight new snakes for visitors to see, including a rare albino Burmese Python which measures approximately 11 feet long and a Yellow Anaconda which is almost five feet long.

The pair have moved to Leeds from Scotland as they had outgrown their previous homes, and together with six other rare snakes who are threatened with extinction will be on public display from this week.

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Media are invited to a photocall at Tropical World in Roundhay to see the new snakes at 9:30am on Wednesday 11th November. The Burmese Python is also likely to be able to be held by any media who wish to do so. Please note due to the conditions inside Tropical World all photography and recording equipment will need at least 30 minutes' acclimatisation time before the photocall.
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The female Burmese Python is likely to be the star new attraction due to its sheer size and unusual colouring. One of the largest species of snake in the world, the Burmese Python is native to the rainforests of South-East Asia and grows on average to be 18ft long (5.5 metres) and weighs up to 160 pounds (over 10 stones), but the heaviest recorded in captivity reached an incredible 27 feet long weighing in at a hefty 403 lbs (over 28 stones)!

The Tropical World python is currently approximately 11 feet long, but as she is only three years old is still growing. The python is a constrictor which in the wild feeds on mammals and birds, catching and suffocating the prey before swallowing it whole.

The Burmese Python is usually a brown/green and cream colour, but the Tropical World python is an albino as it has no dark pigments in its skin, which in the wild would be a huge disadvantage as it would be unable to camouflage itself and would be an easy target for predators. The numbers of Burmese Pythons are being reduced in the wild by habitat destruction as well as it being hunted for its skin and meat.

The other major new attraction at Tropical World is a four-year-old juvenile male Yellow Anaconda. Currently approximately four-and-a-half feet long, the snake is likely to double in size as on average they reach 8-12 feet when fully grown.

They are found in South America in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and like to live close to water so they can submerge themselves before striking out and ambushing their prey, which is mainly mammals and birds although they will also eat fish, turtles, birds eggs and even small Caiman Crocodiles!

Like the Burmese Python the anaconda is a constrictor so suffocates its prey before swallowing it whole, but despite its yellow/green/black/dark brown colouration giving it good camouflage in the wild it too is under threat due to habitat destruction and being hunted.

The pair have been joined at Tropical World by six smaller new snakes who are also threatened with extinction. The six are all boas and have come from an animal centre in the Cotswolds and consist of two Jamaican Boas, two Cuban Boas and two Dumeril’s Boas.

All the new arrivals are settling in well to their new surroundings and are the first wave of many new animals to Tropical World in the coming months.

Leeds City Council executive member for Leisure Councillor John Procter

“We are delighted to have these new snakes here in Leeds at Tropical World. We cannot wait for the people of Leeds to come along and see them – the Burmese Python is amazing to look at and I’m sure is likely to be hugely popular with visitors of all ages.

“This is just the beginning for Tropical World though, we have lots of exciting new animals on the way and we will very shortly be introducing some extra special new arrivals which everyone is sure to want to come and see.”

Notes to editors:

Located opposite Roundhay Park, Tropical World is home to the largest collection of tropical plants outside Kew Gardens and also houses birds, butterflies, fish, other reptiles, nocturnal monkeys, bats and the ever-popular meerkats.

Tropical World was officially renamed ‘The Arnold and Marjorie Ziff Tropical World’ in 2008 in honour of the local benefactors for their lifelong support for the area and the city.

For further information on Tropical World and its opening hours go to or call 0113 214 5715.


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Learning and Leisure Media Relations Officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Serbia Olympic chiefs to tour Leeds sports facilities

The heads of the Serbian National Olympic Committee will be in Leeds this week touring the facilities which will be used by their athletes in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Following the historic agreement announced in May for Serbian athletes to use Leeds and Sheffield as its training base ahead of the Games, Olympic bosses from Serbia will be visiting both cities for tours of the range of facilities and accommodation to be used by their sporting stars.

The visiting party is headed by President of the Serbian National Olympic Committee Vlade Divas and Secretary General Djordje Visacki. Standing at 7ft 1in tall, Divas is a famous former sports star in his own right, as he enjoyed a high-profile 16-year career playing basketball in the NBA in America alongside legends Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the Los Angeles Lakers and helping to revitalise the Sacramento Kings before injury forced his retirement in 2005.

The visitors will be given a tour of the facilities at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds, as well as those at the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University where their athletes will train and stay during their build-up to the Olympic Games in London.

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Media are invited to a photocall at 10:25am on Wednesday 11th November at Carnegie Sports Centre, Headingley Campus, Leeds Met University. The Serbia Olympic delegation will be joined by representatives of Leeds City Council and Leeds Metropolitan University.
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In total approximately 100 athletes are expected to form the Serbian Olympic squad for 2012, with the training in Leeds being used for swimming, diving, gymnastics, cycling, basketball, handball and volleyball. As part of the agreement the squad are expected to undertake at least one major training camp in Leeds and Sheffield every year leading up to London 2012.

Leeds City Council executive member for Leisure Councillor John Procter said:

“We are looking forward to welcoming the Serbian delegation to Leeds and giving them a flavour of our great city. We are very proud of the range of facilities we now have in Leeds for our visiting athletes to make use of and we are confident it will help them perform at their peak in London and also strengthen the bonds between us.”

The facilities in Leeds are also to be used by other athletes aiming for glory in London in 2012, as it was announced in July that the Dutch Swimming Federation had agreed to use the Aquatics Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport as the training base for its swimmers ahead of the Games.

For further information on Leeds’ Olympic project go to, or to see how the Yorkshire region is gearing up to London 2012 visit


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Learning and Leisure Media Relations Officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Children should be seen and not hurt

Young road safety officers at Southroyd Primary School in Pudsey have come up with a bright idea to help their fellow pupils keep safe during the dull, dark days of autumn and winter.

They have organised a competition for the pupils at the school to design a piece of high visibility clothing to make children more noticeable to motorists in the darker mornings and evenings. Motorists often find it difficult to see pedestrians at night or when visibility is poor, especially if they are wearing dark clothes. This is a particular issue for children as many school uniforms and winter coats are dark in colour.

The junior road safety officers will judge the competition and the winners will receive goody bags provided by the council’s road safety team containing fluorescent and reflective items.

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Media are invited to take pictures of the winning entries and the children that designed them at 2pm on Thursday, 12 November at Southroyd Primary School, Littlemoor Crescent, Pudsey.
Please contact Claire Macklam on 0113 395 1578 to arrange attendance.
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Kate Prior, headteacher of Southroyd Primary School said:“Its fantastic that our junior road safety officers recognise the importance of being seen by motorists, and have come up with the idea of this competition to help get the message across to the other children in school. It also gives our pupils the chance to get creative and have some fun whilst learning about something really important.”

Councillor Stuart Andrew, lead member for road safety said:
“The excellent Junior Road Safety Officer scheme is open to all schools in Leeds, and was developed to give young people the opportunity to raise the profile of road safety amongst their peers.

“We know that children can be vulnerable near the roads, especially now that the mornings and evenings are darker, and so many school uniforms and winter coats are dark in colour. The junior road safety officers at this school have recognised this and come up with a great competition to highlight the potential dangers.

"Hopefully it will help the children taking part and their parents recognise how important it is for them to be seen whenever they are out and about near the roads during the winter months.”

Additional info

The Junior Road Safety Officer scheme has been developed by Leeds City Council's Road Safety Promotion Unit who provide all the necessary supporting resources and literature. It operates very successfully in many Leeds schools, and enables children to take some responsibility for raising road safety awareness and issues amongst their peers, whilst helping to maintain a continuing road safety profile in schools.

THINK! will be promoting the 'Be Bright Be Seen' message to children and parents from Friday 23 October until the second week of December.

Be Bright Be Seen - road safety advice is as follows:

- Brightly coloured or fluorescent clothing shows up well in daylight and at dusk.

- If you're out by the roads when it's dark, wear reflective gear to make sure you can be seen in car headlights. Reflective vests, sashes or wrist bands work well. Remember, fluorescent clothing doesn't work after dark!

- And, don't forget to accessorise! Even small items such as clip on reflectors, arm bands and stickers on your outfit or school bag will improve your visibility.

- It is the law to have clean and working lights on your bike - red at the back and white at the front - you must also fit your bike with red rear reflectors. Fitting spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen in the dark.

- 'Being Bright' isn't the only way to be safer. If you're out at night, choose routes and crossing places that are well lit and remember to always use the Green Cross Code - Find the safest place to cross and then Think, Stop, Look and Listen.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578

Middleton Mobile Jobshop - did you get to see it?

A joint pilot initiative to provide help and advice on training and employment in the Middleton area has proved a great success.

A mobile Jobshop, using the Aire Valley Homes mobile office and the e-learning bus provided by Jobs and Skills, visited Middleton Circus this summer.

It greeted over 170 local residents. offering free advice and guidance on employment opportunities, education and training, housing, childcare advice and self employment.

By asking Middleton residents what they wanted, it was clear there was a need for advice like this and a group of people living in the area that would benefit.

The aim was to make it as easy and convenient for local people as possible. So while residents popped out for their paper they could ask about training or employment opportunities or, if living in a home managed by Aire Valley Homes, ask a question about their home on a range of subjects from rent to estate tidy-ups.

The initiative was a partnership between Health for All, Jobcentre Plus, Leeds City Council’s Jobs and Skills, Aire Valley Homes, Joseph Priestley College and Learning Partnerships and brought a much needed service to the area.

One visitor to the mobile Jobshop said:
“I wasn’t planning on talking to anyone that day, but saw the bus parked up next to the shops. After chatting with them I’ve updated my CV and sorted out a benefit query I had too.”

Councillor Les Carter, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for jobs and skills, said:
“Everyone’s feeling the pinch at the moment, but by giving free help and advice on employment, education and training the council is getting help to the people who need it the most.
“The community spoke and the council listened – I’m pleased this event has been a success.”

Councillor Judith Blake, chair of the Middleton Regeneration Board, said:
“The mobile Jobshop has filled a need-gap in the area. It’s fantastic that these organisations have formed a strong partnership to deliver this free service.
“There’s plenty of reasons to do more projects like this in the future, and we always want local residents to take part in consultation exercises so we know what’s needed and who to work with to meet that need.”

If you live in the Middleton area and want to speak to someone about training and employment opportunities it’s not too late – please contact Jobs and Skills on 2475465.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Michael Molcher, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3937

Can you make a difference for a special child?

People and families in Leeds are being invited to experience for themselves the rewards of adopting, as part of National Adoption Week.

This year the adoption service is stressing the urgent need for people and families who can meet the needs of infants and children with a disability or element of special need.

Right now there are infants and children, from just a few months old up to seven years, with special needs in Leeds urgently in need of adoptive parents who can provide them with invaluable security and support. There’s a shortage of people and families who can meet these children’s needs. Some children will have a disability, others will have health and development issues which require long term support and care.

You don’t have to be married or have a family to adopt - adopters can be single, married, divorced, remarried, without children of their own, or already have a family. The key necessity is that they provide a permanent, stable, secure and loving home. Adoptive parents are needed who reflect a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances.

National Adoption Week runs from Monday 9 November 2009 and is organised by BAAF (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering) – a campaigning organisation which links agencies (including Leeds) involved in adoption and fostering. The aim of the week is to highlight the need for adopters, particularly those who can meet the needs of children who are considered a priority.

Councillor Stewart Golton, executive board member responsible for children’s services said:
“We are looking for adoptive parents in the Leeds area from all backgrounds. Whatever your situation, as long as you have a lot of love to give, coupled with enthusiasm, energy and the determination to make a real difference to a child’s life, then we want to hear from you.

“Adopting a child is life-changing and incredibly rewarding commitment. Our dedicated and experienced adoption staff in Leeds will do everything possible to make sure adopters have all the preparation, training and support they need.”

In total around 80 children in the city need to be placed with Leeds approved adopters each year and they are mainly aged between two and seven. A smaller proportion of these will have special needs. Leeds has the second largest local authority adoption service in the UK and looks after around 1,300 children and young people.

More adopters in Leeds are also needed for:
• Family groups of children who need placing together
• Children of Black African, Caribbean and Asian ethnicity
• Single children aged three years and above.

Children placed with adopters will often have experienced disruption, insecurity, neglect and abuse. Their backgrounds and circumstances can often be quite complex.

Staff in the adoption service work very closely with adopters to prepare them for the range of behavioural, emotional and practical issues they may have to deal with. Leeds has an established adoption support team of specialist staff providing a range of support to adoptive families , including staff dedicated to assisting those adopters who make commitments to children with special needs.

There are also training and workshops on a range of issues including attachment, parental strategies and education, regular support groups for adoptive parents, an annual social event for adoptive families and a regular newsletter for adopters.

Leeds adopter Becky Gillespie said:
“Our family have adopted two children and it completed our family. It is one of the most worthwhile and rewarding commitments we have ever made. It is so important to be able to help with a child's security and support their special needs - they are happy and thriving and are now so settled in our family.

“There are many more children in Leeds who need the security of adoption or fostering - adoption has changed our family life and can be such a rewarding experience. We have had great support from our adoption worker and specialist advice to help us achieve this so you would not be alone in making such an important commitment.

“If you have an interest in helping a child by adopting and can find space in your family, contact Leeds now and find out how you can help like we did.”

Leeds City Council also provide monthly information meetings on adoption and once an interest has been registered, adoption staff can make a home visit to discuss it in more detail.

For more details on adopting with Leeds, including information packs and monthly information meetings, contact (0113) 247 4747 (Office Hours), email: or visit:

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council Press Office, on (0113) 2474713

Big increase in numbers of Leeds drug users receiving treatment

Better drug services in Leeds have led to a 10% increase in the number of problem drug users receiving treatment and rehabilitation this year.

Figures issued by the Safer Leeds Treatment and Recovery Service show that 3,242 adults received effective treatment, in the 12 months to May 2009 compared with 2,939 for the previous 12 month period, an increase of 10.3 per cent.

The figures represent people beginning treatment, those who have been in treatment for 12 weeks or more and those who have been discharged successfully.

The increase follows the appointment of new drug service providers within the city, and improvements in the way the services work together.

The majority of people undergoing treatment are Class A drug users using heroin or crack cocaine.

The figures are being released to coincide with a seminar on the way forward for drug treatment in the city, organised by Safer Leeds today (Monday 9 November 2009)

Councillor Les Carter, executive board member responsible for drug and alcohol policy and chair of Safer Leeds, said:
“This is a huge and welcome improvement in the number of problem drug users receiving treatment.

“The increase has been been achieved not by extra funding, but by increasing efficiency.

“Providing effective treatment for drug users helps them to get off drugs and that in turn benefits the whole community.

“Fewer drug users means less drug-related crime, and transforms the lives of people who would otherwise be trapped in a drug using lifestyle.”

• Safer Leeds is the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) dedicated to tackling drugs and crime in the city. It is a partnership between a number of local agencies including Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Police, NHS Leeds, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and West Yorkshire Police Authority.


For further information contact:
John Donegan
(0113) 247 4450 (mon-wed am)