We strongly object to the outline planning application for the following reasons:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The application fails against National Planning Policy Framework tests, e.g.
- NPPF specifically seeks to protect ancient woodland, a status not afforded to other rare habitat types.
- Material considerations (such as debatable ‘need’ and commercial objectives) should not justify a decision to be reached contrary to the development plan.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.