Save Smithy Wood: fast food court, hotel and car park or ancient woodland?

Wednesday 1st March 2017

We are once again calling on the people of Sheffield to help save the ancient woodland, Smithy Wood, as a highly controversial proposal to build an 80-bed hotel, car park and fast food court is set to be considered by Sheffield City Council’s planning committee on Tuesday 28 March at 10am in the Town Hall.

We are asking local people to write to their local councillor and ask them to save the ancient woodland while there is still time to influence the decision. We are also holding a peaceful protest on Saturday 18 March at 11.30am outside the Town Hall, to which all are welcome.

After four years of campaigning alongside local residents and other environmental groups, Liz Ballard, CEO of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said: “We really need the help of local people to save this woodland. We are asking people to tell their local councillor that they want this woodland saved. We call on the planning committee councillors to see this application for what it is - an opportunist proposal that will bring significant profits to a few instead of a fantastic public green space for the many. If ever there was a time to show our ‘outdoor city’ credentials this is it.”

Smithy Wood in Chapeltown is over 800 years old and part of a unique network of ancient woodlands. The wood is a key part of Sheffield’s rich, natural heritage and designated as a Local Wildlife Site in Sheffield’s green belt. It is much-loved by local people, who have regularly visited the wood and supports hundreds of different species of birds, animals, plants and fungi.

The developer, MSA Extra, and the land owner, St Paul’s, are applying to build a retail park six times the size of a typical motorway service station with fast food outlets, such as McDonalds and Starbucks, and an 80-bed hotel. This service station would be on one of the safest stretches of road in the region that is already well served by other local businesses. The development would permanently destroy irreplaceable ancient woodland and diminish the green belt. Government guidance is clear – ancient woodlands cannot be compensated for by new tree planting or woodland management elsewhere.

Liz added: “Our vision for Smithy Wood is to turn it into a fantastic woodland; a community asset that is well-managed, secure, safe and easily accessible to local families, school groups, walkers and cyclists. We firmly believe that with the Council’s help we could make this happen. The poor environmental stewardship of this land is plain to see. The land has been left unsecured and uncared for, and, over the last two to three years in particular, local residents have noticed a major increase in use of the site by off-road vehicles. This all benefits the developer. Smithy Wood is a beautiful bluebell woodland in spring and we really hope this spring will not be the last before the bluebells are replaced by Tarmac.”

The people of Sheffield have already shown their overwhelming support for our Save Smithy Wood campaign and we understand that Sheffield City Council has received an unprecedented number of objections from local people and from across the country. Nearly 1,000 objections are thought to have been submitted online, with the vast majority citing the loss of this important habitat for local wildlife as their key reason for opposing the application.

Some of the comments from the local community include:

“Which would our grandchildren thank us for - the opportunity to enjoy exploring a woodland, with carpets of bluebells and rich bird song or a motorway services station?”

“Developers have not considered the negative impact on existing local business.”

“Smithy Wood is a nationally important habitat that cannot be recreated.”

“There are already adequate services within easy reach of the proposed development.”

Contacting your local councillor couldn’t be easier: simply visit www.wildsheffield.com/smithywood for all you need to know about finding your local councillor and for ideas on what to say. The whole process takes 10 minutes and can have a real impact on securing the future of this ancient woodland

For further information, including the latest details about the Trust’s planned peaceful pro-test, please visit www.wildsheffield.com/smithywood