Smithy Wood

Bluebells in SpringSmithy Wood bluebells in spring time

A development proposal has been submitted by the ‘Extra MSA’ group to build a new motorway service station in Smithy Wood, off Junction 35 of the M1 in the Ecclesfield/Chapeltown area of Sheffield.

Smithy Wood includes over 15ha of semi-natural ancient woodland. It is regularly used by local people from Chapeltown, Thorpe Hesley, the Cowley estate and other areas nearby. Dating back over 850 years, it is an irreplaceable piece of Sheffield’s environmental landscape and heritage and supports a diverse range of locally and nationally important species – including ancient woodland flora, birds, bats, fungi and butterflies. It has significant historical interest – as described by local historical woodland expert Mel Jones in his book ‘Sheffield’s Woodland Heritage’.

Smithy Wood is privately owned by St Pauls and is designated as a Local Wildlife Site within green belt. The wood forms part of an important ecological network - a network for nature - that runs from the centre of Sheffield out to High Green/Chapeltown and beyond (as identified by the Sheffield City Council Development Plan). Recently, the site has not been managed or protected from inappropriate use and has increasingly suffered damage from 4x4 vehicles and fly-tipping.

Extra Motorway Services/St Paul’s Development have lodged an outline application to build over 3,000m2 of retail park, an 80-bed hotel and over 500 parking spaces on the site. A majority of the ancient woodland site would be lost or affected, leaving a small isolated remnant standing.

The developers carried out a consultation before submitting their planning application in 2014. In October 2015 they submitted final documents for their outline planning application. A decision will be made by SCC in 2017.

See below for more information relating to this case, including a footprint map showing the extent of the planned development.

The issue:

We strongly object to the outline planning application for the following reasons:

  1. Smithy Wood is designated on Natural England’s Ancient Woodland Inventory. Ancient woodland is of national importance and recognised as an irreplaceable habitat. Smithy Wood is also designated as a Local Wildlife Site and sits within the Green Belt. From information in the planning application we firmly believe that the scale, nature and location of the proposal will serve to cause extensive and irreversible loss of a major part of the ancient woodland area (and residual damage to the remnant) and loss of much of the Local Wildlife Site.
  2. The gradual loss of smaller sites such as Smithy Wood adds up over time to a significant loss in woodland to Sheffield – something that is special and unique about the city
  3. The Sheffield City Council Development Plan and Core Strategy has recognised the importance of such sites through a number of policies including Ecological Networks and we believe these planning policies should be upheld.
  4. The application fails against National Planning Policy Framework tests eg
      ~ NPPF specifically seeks to protect ancient woodland, a status not afforded to other rare habitat types;
      ~ Material considerations (such as debateable ‘need’ and commercial objectives) should not justify a decision to be reached contrary to the development plan;
  1. Proposed mitigation/compensation measures (which should always be a last resort, not a starting position) are wholly insufficient to constitute adequate compensation for the loss of biodiversity. The applicant’s compensation package is primarily to improve existing woodlands and public green spaces.
  2. We do not agree with the applicant that the claimed benefits of the proposal would clearly outweigh local environmental harm and so justify the loss of irreplaceable ecological assets and Green Belt.
  3. ‘Need’ for a motorway service area at this location has not been proven to the degree necessary to take a decision against so many planning policies designed to protect sites like Smithy Wood.
  4. Finally, with proper management, Smithy Wood could be restored to biological health, to an amazing habitat and amenity space for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Consequently the Council should refuse this application in line with national and local policy frameworks.

For our four full objections made to the planning application, please see the downloads at the end of this page. They are

Submission 1 June 2014 (also available here)

Submission 2 August 2014

Submission 3 with two detailed appendices November 2015

Submission 4 August 2016

What we have done and will do:

  • Commented on the pre-application consultation
  • Met the applicant’s ecologists on site to hear about their proposals and the reasons for their approach
  • Met the applicant to discuss the proposal and the mitigation package. This was with the aim of securing an improved compensation package for the loss of biodiversity and access to green space for local people should our objection to the application fail.
  • Liaised with local wildlife and planning experts from across the city to co-ordinate and submit a detailed objection to the planning application. This was followed by additional comments as the applicants provided more information.
  • Respond to a further planning consultation in autumn 2015 and continue to engage with the process through to Planning Committee and beyond, as required.
  • Continue to update and engage the public, our members, local woodland experts and the local MP through the media and public events
  • Working in partnership with other organisations opposing the scheme – including the Woodland Trust and Cowley Resident’s Action Group (CRAG)
  • Supporting CRAG in their application to designate Smithy Wood as a Village Green.

What you can do:

Thank you to all those who submitted planning objections: there were over 500 objections on-line to the application (not including petitions).

But now is the time to act again. Even if you have already objected once, please do so again. For more information and how you can TAKE ACTION click here.

If would like to contact us about Smithy Woods, please call Nicky Rivers on 0114 263 4335 or email

Evidence and references:

MSA Extra’s website about the proposals:
Natural England’s Standing Advice on Ancient Woodlands:
‘Keepers of Time’ policy:$FILE/anw-policy.pdf


FilenameFile size
History of Smithy Wood by Mel Jones.pdf1.61 MB
Smithy Wood footprint map.jpg6.65 MB
final_srwt_objection1_-_smithy_wood.pdf968.48 KB
final_srwt_objection_2_-_smithy_wood.pdf480.66 KB
final_srwt_objection_3_-_smithy_wood.pdf1.15 MB
srwt3_appendix_1_review_of_ecological_documents_provided_for_msa_m1_j35.pdf1.39 MB
srwt3_appendix_2_sheffield_msa_m1_j35_transport_objection.pdf426.57 KB
final_srwt_objection_4_-_smithy_wood.docx_.pdf491.72 KB
ceo_liz_ballard_-_letter_to_cllr_-_saving_smithy_wood.doc812 KB
final_srwt_objection_5_-_smithy_wood.pdf574 KB