Sandra Fretwell-Smith and Claire Baker of Owlthorpe Fields Action Group celebrate the new Local Wildlife Site

Owlthorpe Fields gains Local Wildlife Site status

After almost 4 years of campaigning against housing development on a rewilded Greenfield site in Owlthorpe, Sheffield, the decision to designate the two remaining allocated housing areas as Local Wildlife Sites came as very welcome news to local community group Owlthorpe Fields Action Group (OAG).

The decision was made following a meeting of the Local Wildlife Sites Partnership, made up of representatives from the council, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, the Universities and others.

Christine Rippon (OAG) said: “We are absolutely delighted. The sites have been rewilding for over 20 years and the biodiversity has increased significantly in that time. The locals are passionate about the flora and fauna and have watched it develop over the last 20 years. The fields have become a valuable greenspace and community asset used daily for mental and physical wellbeing, bird watching, dog walking, walking in nature and it is just lovely to see its true ecological value recognised by experts.”

Sandra Fretwell-Smith (OAG) added: “As a group we have spent a lot of time observing the flora and fauna and have recorded them on the Wildlife Trusts Nature Counts database, which feeds into the national ecological database, the NBN Atlas. We also commissioned a professional habitat and invertebrate survey. The local people of Owlthorpe knew the breadth of the biodiversity on the fields as we live here and see the variety of birds, mammals invertebrates, plants, trees, grasses and wildflowers on a daily basis and through the changing seasons.

We would like to thank Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust for helping us pursue the designation and advising us to submit our observations. We would also like to thank our local community for sticking with OAG over the long period waiting for the meeting to go ahead (which was repeatedly delayed due to the Covid pandemic), a time during which they witnessed the devastating clearance of the site currently undergoing development.”

Dr Nicky Rivers is the Living Landscape Development Manager for Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, says “This shows the value of local people appreciating, caring about and recording their local wildlife. We have been supporting OAG and are delighted the site has got the recognition it deserves as a Local Wildlife Site which has rewilded from an arable field over 25 years. It can continue to be part of a nature recovery network as well as being a valuable natural green space for people to enjoy.”

Whilst the LWS status does not prevent development, it is the first step in protecting this much loved community area.

Gary Monaghan said: “the designation is a real boost in our campaign to have the fields removed from the housing allocation in the new Sheffield Local Plan, the consultation for which is scheduled for autumn this year, when the draft plan is due to be made public. We have been promised by the leader of the council, Councillor Terry Fox, that the two sites will not be put up for sale before the consultation is complete. We have recently submitted an application for the two areas to be designated as local green space and included as such in the new local plan. Our application is being considered and we await the outcome of this.”

Claire Baker, Chair of OAG added: “Owlthorpe Fields is a perfect example of Nature Recovery in action. Left to its own devices nature has flourished. With the first instalment of the biodiversity net gain payment from the development site due imminently, we would like to see some of this money spent on much needed management of the two newly designated sites. Kate Josephs, Sheffield Council Chief Executive has indicated to us that the Council ‘want to encourage and welcome involvement from OAG, along with other interest groups, in the biodiversity compensation/mitigation work’.”