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Protest picnic at wood threatened by M1 plans

Jean Howe, of the Cowley Residents Group, Kaye Brennan, a campaigner for the Woodland Trust, Coun Steve Wilson and Oliver Newham, of the Woodland Trust, in the ancient woodland

Jean Howe, of the Cowley Residents Group, Kaye Brennan, a campaigner for the Woodland Trust, Coun Steve Wilson and Oliver Newham, of the Woodland Trust, in the ancient woodland

Campaigners battling to save part of an ancient woodland being demolished to make way for an M1 service station have held a protest picnic.

The event at Smithy Wood was organised by The Woodland Trust and Cowley Residents Action Group, who are opposing the proposals by Extra Motorway Service Area for the site near Chapeltown.

Organisers said hundreds of people attended the day.

Oliver Newham, senior Woodland Trust campaigner, said: “It was wonderful to see so many people showing their support for Smithy Wood. It is obviously highly valued by the local community.

“The UK has just two per cent ancient woodland cover and Smithy is one of at least 400 ancient woods across the country currently threatened by a planning application.”

It comes as the Forestry Commission weighed into the debate on the contentious application - and said the ancient woodland may actually be improved as a result of the development.

The government department said the affected area has ‘relatively few typical woodland indicator species’, while there is ‘little evidence’ of the area being used for recreation purposes by local people.

Its report added that plans to plant extra trees elsewhere to replace those that will be knocked down will actually increase the amount of native woodland in the area.

Richard Pow, partnerships and expertise manager for the Forestry Commission in Yorkshire and the North East, said Smithy Wood has had a ‘particularly challenging history’, with larger trees removed around 70 years ago and others cut down for fuel in the 1980s during the miners’ strike.

He said that it has also been used more recently by people in four wheel drive vehicles.

Mr Pow added: “The native woodland planting offered in mitigation - roughly twice the size of the area lost - will increase the amount of native woodland in this area.”

Hundreds of objections have been made against the plans, with the deadline for representations recently extended until August 7 ahead of a decision by Sheffield Council’s planning department.

 

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