What brought you to Holbeck?

I was born & grew up in Beeston. I attended Matthew Murray school then moved to Holbeck aged 19 when I wanted to spread my wings and get a place of my own! I didn’t move far really! My parents still live locally and it’s great to have so many friends and family in the area.

What do you love about Holbeck?

The people! I’ve lived here 20 years now and have met so many wonderful people. I worked at Ingram Road primary school for 11 years as a teaching assistant and loved it. Made a lot of life long friends. Holbeck is an amazing community. When my daughter was young everyone knew each other, we used to pop into each others homes on the street for a cuppa while the kids played.

The change from being a teaching assistant to owning your own shop seems quite a leap. How did that happen?

I had a fall at home one day and hurt my back. It was a long and painful recovery. I eventually had to find a new occupation as I couldn’t manage working at the school any more. I got bored at home and started selling things on ebay to fill my time which turned into quite a hobby. Late in 2016 I walked past and saw the shop was empty… in that moment my eyes lit up! I jumped at the chance to run it and contacted the landlord straight away. “New to You” opened in January 2017.

It’s become more than a shop though, it’s also a community hub where people come for support, help and even just a chat. It’s great to be able to offer help and support to my community.

I’ve heard rumours about you being a crazy dog lady?!

I confess, it’s true! It’s not just my three gorgeous dogs though! I’ve also got a cat, a rabbit and some fish. My own mini petting zoo!

The next big step for you is standing as a candidate in the May 2018 council elections. What prompted you to do that?

Being a Leeds City Councillor is about local people representing their own communities. I’ve spent my life here in the Beeston & Holbeck ward. I want residents to have a voice – I want to make sure we are heard and our wishes are taken into account.

I’m concerned that some of the things that have happened here are not in our best interests. I want to play my part in making sure that whatever is added to this area or taken away from it is good for the community. I have no previous political experience, I just want to be someone residents can trust to look after their interests.

Possibly the most controversial thing that’s been added here is the “managed approach for prostitution.” What are your thoughts on that?

I believe the zone shouldn’t be here. We need to put something in place and work with other agencies to prevent street prostitution affecting our lives to this extent. It’s not just the residents who suffer, the women who are being used don’t seem to have any quality of life. We’d all be better off if we could end street prostitution across the area. It’s the shameful exploitation of women in our community. A national disgrace. It’s not just the women though – kerb crawlers and drug dealers need removing too.

What other issues particularly concern you?

We need to make sure residents are not inconvenienced by excessive noise and dirt from construction projects. For example, the building work on the IcePak site must be monitored to avoid too much disruption for residents.

With the redevelopment of Leeds South Bank we have a lot of construction to live through over the next 10 years. At the same time, we need to work together to ensure the wider community benefits from the huge investment that is coming. The most important thing for the next 2 weeks is to support the Neighbourhood Plan vote on Thursday 1st March. Our Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum will be well funded compared to many others. By voting “yes” on 1st March we can put 25% of the “community infrastructure levy” the developers pay the council right into the hands of our community. We can have a say in how it’s spent!

In Beeston, one of the main issues is the park & ride scheme. Pollution levels & congestion must be monitored.

Litter is a problem in Holbeck. There are not enough bins. We need urgent action to eliminate sex industry litter. Some streets are lined with hazardous waste like used condoms and drug addicts syringes & needles.

Cottingley residents have issues including no parks for children, poor bus service and local amenities . These things are taken for granted by residents in other parts of Leeds and should be available here too.

What’s your vision for the future? For you personally and for the area?

I’d like be able to run the shop as a successful business to support my family. My daughter is now 18, she’s at college in Leeds. She aims to study criminal psychology at university so it’s an exciting time for us as a family.

For Holbeck, I want to bring back some of the old community spirit and make it a better place to live. A safe, family area again. Make it an area where people are proud to live… I can’t be the only person who gets funny looks when they say they live in Holbeck now. The reputation of this area has been destroyed. I want to be part of the solution. Holbeck & Beeston have so much potential. I’m looking forward to the South Bank regeneration, hopefully that will play a big part in turning around the problems we face at the moment. One day when I say “I live in Holbeck” I want people to reply “Oh it’s lovely there!”

One day when I say “I live in Holbeck” I want people to reply “Oh it’s lovely there!”

Laura Walton will stand for election as a “Save Our Beeston & Holbeck” independent candidate on 3rd May. This year, due to boundary changes in Leeds, each voter will have 3 votes and all 3 local council seats will be contested.

Follow Laura on Facebook here

Interview by Paula at Save Our Eyes.

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