The planning decision made in May 2020 by Sheffield City Council to refuse a planning application submitted by Avant Homes to build 72 houses on part of Owlthorpe Fields, has unfortunately been overturned through a Planning Appeal.
The Appeal Inquiry, heard over six days in January, covered a range of topics including ecology, trees, design and affordable housing. The main parties at the inquiry were the appellant Avant Homes and Sheffield City Council who defended the initial refusal, saying they accepted the principal of housing development, but did not approve this scheme.
Owlthorpe Fields Action Group also had a seat at the table, represented by Ecology Expert Witness, Dr Nicola Rivers, Living Landscape Development Manager at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust work with and support their members and local groups with their planning concerns which may cause a threat to local wildlife.
Dr Rivers argued that the site, which has been left to re-vegetate naturally for 20 years, was now of sufficient ecological value to be designated as a Local Wildlife Site. However, Planning Inspector Woodwards, who headed the Appeal Inquiry, issued his decision today and although he recognised the ecological value of the site, he agreed with Avant that this could be mitigated and compensated, on and off site.
Dr Rivers reacted to the decision, “I am very disappointed with the decision. Owlthorpe Fields, which link two existing Local Wildlife Sites, could be an important component of a nature recovery network in this area as they already have 20 years of natural regeneration as a head start.”
Dr Rivers went on to say, “The Fields are also of huge value to local people. It has been fantastic to use our expertise to support Owlthorpe Fields Action Group, who have put in so much work to collect evidence on the ecology and to campaign to protect the fields. As a result of being so involved in the Inquiry, we have secured some small gains for ecology including more protection for the Ochre Dyke Ancient Woodland and more off-site biodiversity compensation.”
Although one significant area of the fields will now be developed as housing, there are two other areas whose future has not yet been determined.
Drs Rivers finished, “We will continue to push for the remainder of the fields to be considered for Local Wildlife Site designation to contribute to the recovery of nature in Sheffield”.
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It may interest you to read our Sheffield State of Nature Report which highlights the need to protect our stunning wildlife and wild spaces now more than ever.