UPDATED: SWT Position Statement: Planning application, motorway service station, M1 Junction 35, Smithy Wood

Friday 13th September 2013

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Proposed Development New motorway service station M1 Junction 35 in Smithy Wood Ancient Woodland SWT Position Statement 13th September 2013

The Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham is aware of a pre-application consultation on a development proposal from the ‘Extra MSA’ group to build a new service station in Smithy Wood off Junction 35 of the M1 in the Ecclesfield/Chapeltown area of Sheffield.

Smithy Wood is an ancient woodland, privately owned by St Pauls, that is designated as a Local Wildlife Site within green belt. We also recognise Smithy Wood as a link in an important ecological network - a network for nature  - that runs from the centre of Sheffield out to High Green/ Chapeltown and beyond.
We attended the developer’s pre-application consultation event and have had the opportunity to meet on site with the ecologist acting on behalf of the developer.  It is encouraging that the developer and their agents has been willing to engage with us at this early stage in the process.
Our position is as follows:
Currently we cannot see any gain for wildlife from this proposal and so we would oppose this development.

The Natural Value of Smithy Wood

Smithy Wood is an ancient woodland and designated Local Wildlife Site within Sheffield’s Green Belt. It is 22.3Ha in size and supports the Biodiversity Priority Habitats of Ancient Woodland and Grassland. It supports a wide range of ancient woodland flora, birds, fungi and butterflies.
It has significant historical interest – as described by local historical woodland expert Mel Jones in his book ‘Sheffield’s Woodland Heritage’ and in his submission to this consultation response.  Read Mel's 'History of Smithy Wood' by downloading the pdf at the bottom of the page. 
The site is part of the Network for Nature that runs through Sheffield – a network that is constantly under erosion.  The gradual loss of smaller sites such as Smithy Woods adds up over time to a significant loss in woodland to Sheffield – something that is special and unique about the city.
The site is in private ownership (St Paul’s) and has not been recently managed or protected from inappropriate use. The site has suffered damage from 4x4 vehicles and fly-tipping and the central part is somewhat degraded (on the surface) as a result.
However, at this stage, it is the view of our Woodland Manger, following a recent site visit, that if the woodland were to be properly protected and managed, the damaged areas could be restored over time.
We look forward to seeing the results of the ecological surveys of the woodlands (recommended by the Sheffield City Council Ecology Unit) before we comment any further on the current condition of the site and impact of the proposals.

Mitigation

Ancient woodland sites are irreplaceable – once lost they are lost forever.  Destruction of part of the wood is irreversible: by definition, ancient woodland soils, wildlife, and historical meaning cannot be compensated for by mitigation techniques. Because ancient woodland is irreplaceable, the current proposal for planting new woodland to the south of the site at a 1:1 ratio is not adequate. This is compounded by the fact that the proposed area for the new woodland is on the path of the indicative HS2 route.  The remaining strip on the western edge would also be lost in the medium-future under the current proposed HS2 route. 
We would support the concept of St Paul’s other woodland holdings being brought into positive management with partners under a long-term agreement, but at this point we are unconvinced that the mitigation package is legally binding in the long-term nor adequate to compensate for the habitat loss and so is unlikely to result in a biodiversity gain.
Our opinion is that the current mitigation package is inadequate and on this basis we would object to the development and mitigation proposal.

We have also considered current Sheffield City Council Planning Policies on green belt and Local Wildlife Sites and the National Planning Policy framework.  Our conclusion is that the current proposal contravenes Sheffield City Council and National Planning Policies.

Alternative Locations

The consultation website states “A search of possible MSA sites has shown that the best location to fill the ‘gaps’ mentioned above is at Junction 35 of the M1.”
We have seen no evidence of a detailed site analysis, exploring all potential options for the MSA across the M1 and M18. As such we question the need to locate the MSA at this particular location. 

We are not yet clear if and when the planning application will be submitted to Sheffield City Council – possibly in October.
The online public consultation closes on 16th September and can be found at www.sheffieldmotorwayservices.co.uk
We welcome comments on the Extra MSA proposal.  Please contact Nicky Rivers at the Wildlife Trust on 0114 2634335 or n.rivers@wildsheffield.com

Downloads

FilenameFile size
History of Smithy Wood by Mel Jones.pdf1.61 MB