TAKE ACTION for Smithy Wood!

If you are concerned about the loss of ancient woodland, local green spaces, local wildlife and wildlife sites or worried about inappropriate development in the green belt and erosion of ecological networks then please help us to save Smithy Wood.

A planning application has been submitted by 'Extra MSA' group that proposes to build a major motorway service area on Smithy Wood ancient woodland and Local Wildlife Site in the green belt close to Junction 35 of the M1 in the Ecclesfield/Chapeltown area of Sheffield. The development includes a large fast food court, 80-bed hotel, petrol station and car park.

For background information about Smithy Wood and this case click here.

LATEST NEWS: A formal planning application for the Junction 33 proposal has now been submitted by Applegreen, which we have submitted a formal response to and we have also written to Sheffield City Council. Click here for comment from our CEO, Liz Ballard, and click here to download our letter.

On 14 August, representatives of MSA Extra, the developers behind the Smithy Wood proposals wrote to Sheffield City Council asking for their application to be temporarily placed “on hold” to allow suitable time for another proposal for a motorway service area at Juntion 33 to be determined by Rotherham Council. MSA Extra suggested that rival company Applegreen's application should be submitted by the end of September.

Over 300 people came along to our peaceful protest outside the Town Hall on Saturday 18th March to demonstrate their objection to the proposals. Read our press release here and our CEO Liz Ballard's letter to councillors here.

What you can do to help...

1. MOST IMPORTANT - contact your local councillor about this issue now

You can still make a difference if you act now. By contacting your local councillor you can still influence this decision as the planning committee who is made up of councillors will be making the decision. We want this planning application to be refused so we need all the councillors, especially those on the planning committee, to vote against the development. A petition will not be much help.

Use the information below to make sure your councillor is aware of this application and the impact it might have on Smithy Wood as an ancient woodland in the green belt. Let them know how strongly you feel, the reasons why and that you hope the Council will refuse this application. This is especially important if your councillor sits on Sheffield City Council's planning committee as they will make the decision to refuse or approve the application.  If they are, please tell them not to be put off by the currently muddy condition of the woodland during their site visit. This has been caused by the current land owners doing nothing to prevent access by 4x4 vehicles. This has made the site look messy in places but it is superficial and could easily be restored with proper protection and care, especially in the timescale of ancient woodlands!

When you contact your councillor about a planning issue, it is always ideal to talk about the issue in planning terms. If you need help with this please scroll down to see our ‘Reasons to Object’ e.g. Green Belt, Ecological Network, Ancient Woodland to back up your arguments as well as adding your own personal concerns about the loss of this site. It is critical that you make your objection based on planning grounds for it to be considered. Once you have written to your councillor, we would really appreciate it if you could forward or BCC a copy to us at takeaction@wildsheffield.com. You can read our CEO Liz Ballard's letter to councillors by going here and scrolling to the downloads at the bottom of the page.

2. Pass it on

Let your friends, family and networks in Sheffield know and ask them to write to their local councillor. We need as many people as possible to contact them.

3. Support our Campaign for Wildlife Fund

  • To make a donation please click here or even better join us as a member here - the more members we have, the bigger our collective voice!

4. Write to the local press with your concerns

5. Follow us on social media and spread the word that way - use #SaveSmithyWood @WildSheffield on Twitter and find 'Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust' on Facebook

What's so special about Smithy Wood infographicReasons to object...

We continue to object to the planning application based on the following issues:

(a) Smithy Wood is an ancient woodland. A nationally important habitat. Ancient woodland status is the term given to sites that have been continuously wooded since at least 1600AD. There is evidence that Smithy Wood is at least 800 years old. The soils and ecosystems have built up over this long timescale creating a biologically and culturally rich environment. Smithy Wood supports hundreds of different types of birds, bats, fungi, insects, plants and trees. Ancient woodlands are, by definition, irreplaceable. They cannot be recreated or moved elsewhere because they are so long in the making.

Natural England reconfirmed recently that Smithy Wood is designated as an ancient woodland on their national inventory, meaning it is of national as well as local importance. This development would result in the loss of over 16 hectares of the Smithy Wood ancient woodland site.

The National Planning Policy Framework (para 118) says planning authorities should refuse planning permission for developments that would lead to loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.

We do not believe that the loss of such a significant nationally important habitat is outweighed by the need for or benefits of the development of Smithy Wood as a motorway service area, which is primarily a fast food court, 80-bed hotel and petrol station.

(b) Smithy Wood is designated as a Local Wildlife Site (also known as Local Nature Site in Sheffield) within Sheffield’s green belt.

It is 22.3ha in size and supports the Biodiversity Priority Habitats of Ancient Woodland and Grassland. It is a haven for a wide range of ancient woodland flora, birds, fungi and butterflies and of significant historical interest, as well as being a place for local people to walk and enjoy. Recent surveys have revealed that Smithy Wood supports:

121 plant species including 19 ancient woodland indicators

222 fungi species, 57 lichen species and 37 mosses and liverworts

37 bird species including 5 red-listed and 7 amber-listed

314 invertebrate species, a regionally important site

(c) The application is contrary to Sheffield City Council's presubmission draft policies, which have been written to protect the Green Environment, as follows:

Policy G1: Safeguarding and Enhancing Biodiversity and Features of Geological Importance. New development will not be permitted where it would cause significant harm to habitats and sites of nature conservation or geological importance... Local Nature Sites will be protected.

Policy G3: Trees, Woodland and the South Yorkshire Forest. Developments should also retain and integrate healthy, mature trees and hedgerows and replace any trees that need to be removed. Development will not be permitted that would directly or indirectly damage existing mature or ancient woodland, veteran trees or ancient or species-rich hedgerows.

(d) We believe that this proposal would cause significant harm to a habitat of nature conservation importance and that the development of a motorway service area (fast food outlet and 80 bed hotel) should not be classified as an exceptional circumstance to justify the loss of green belt.

NPPF Green Belt Policies including: 81. Once Green Belts have been defined, local planning authorities should plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt, such as looking for opportunities to provide access, to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and recreation, to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity, or to improve damaged and derelict land.

Sheffield Local Plan Core Strategy Policy CS71. Green Belt. Countryside and other open land around the existing built-up areas of the city will be safeguarded by maintaining the Green Belt, which will not be subject to strategic or local review. Exceptionally, changes may be made to remove untenable anomalies where the change would not undermine the purposes or objectives of Green Belt in that area. Development needs will be met principally through the re-use of land and buildings rather than through expansion of the urban areas and villages.

Sheffield Local Plan Core Strategy Spatial Strategy includes 4.27. Chapeltown, High Green and Stocksbridge, Deepcar. Chapeltown and Stocksbridge are both designated as Principal Towns… Development in these settlements will be confined to their existing urban areas and expansion into the surrounding countryside not already protected as Green Belt will be strongly resisted. Provision for local jobs will be promoted on redevelopment sites in the Chapeltown area and in Stocksbridge to support a degree of self-containment to reduce the need to travel out to work.

(e) We believe that other locations have been specifically identified by Sheffield City Council as sites for development and enterprise as this is where redevelopment and opportunities for local jobs should be concentrated. Smithy Wood has never been identified as a development site but instead as a site of ecological important.

(f) Smithy Wood is part of an ecological network. The site is within a network for nature that runs through Sheffield, forming part of an important green corridor that runs from the centre of Sheffield out to High Green, Chapeltown and beyond. This network is constantly under erosion. The gradual loss of sites such as Smithy Wood add up over time to a significant loss in woodland to Sheffield, something that is special and unique about the city.

The application is contrary to the Sheffield Local Plan’s policies to enhance networks as follows...

CS73 Strategic Green Network Policy. Within and close to the urban areas, a Strategic Green Network will be maintained and where possible enhanced, which will follow the rivers and streams of the main valleys…and include other strategic corridors through... Blackburn Brook Valley and its tributaries

(g) The benefits do not provide sufficient compensation. The developers are arguing that the ecological benefits of managing other woodlands in the area and planting new woodland outweigh the loss of the ancient woodland. They have increased their compensation offer recently.

However… standing advice re-issued by Natural England in 2015, which has to be taken into account in planning decisions as a material consideration, states that these mitigation and compensation measures should be issues for consideration only after it has been judged that the wider benefits of a proposed development clearly outweigh the loss or damage of ancient woodland.

Compensation and mitigation should therefore not be a factor in the decision making. This case could set a precedent, both locally and nationally, for planning applications to be approved on other ancient woodland sites, as long as enough new trees are planted in compensation.

In addition, many of the other woodland sites included in their compensation package are already used and managed by local people. Responsible land owners should already be ensuring their land is appropriately managed, especially areas that are designated as Local Wildlife Sites. See below. Further improvement to the management of these woodlands for the benefit of local people and wildlife is of course welcome, but not at the expense of another woodland location. In addition, some of the proposed compensation sites are in the line of the proposed High Speed 2 railway.

(h) Claimed other benefits are not based on facts. The developers have written about economic benefits but have not considered the negative impacts on existing local businesses. There are numerous existing local filling stations in the area, including three by the M1 J34, two plus another with planning permission being contructed by J36, four within 2km of J35 and one at Tankersley. There is also a new planning application in at Junction 33 for a Motorway Service Area! In addition, there are a number of existing hotels and cafes which would be negatively affected.

New MSAs should not generate additional trips i.e. they should not be a destination in their own right (source dft strategic road network circular B11). How has the applicant demonstrated that this would be not be case with an MSA so close to a residential area. What is to stop people driving there from the local area to use the facilities in preference to the existing local businesses?

While respecting that new jobs to the area are a good thing, from a planning point of view, there are designated brownfield sites and Enterprise Zones that are being promoted to encourage and support businesses bringing employment into this area.

The developers also talk about health benefits, but it is difficult to see what these may be from a development which is essentially a car park and fast food outlet. In fact, the loss of this woodland would be a loss of a greenspace currently used by local people for recreation.

(i) There is insufficient need. In our view there is insufficient evidence for a need for a motorway service area at this location. The distance between the existing services on this stretch of the M1 is within the recommended guidance and there are additional services at J34, Tankersley and J36. There are also applications in at J33 and J37 There is little evidence for traffic from other major roads needing such a facility at this location. This stretch of the M1 has a 4star safety record. Drivers are not asking for it. Local people do not want it. This is purely driven by a financial opportunity.


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