D-day for Sheffield village green bid

Members of the Woodland trust lead a protest at Smithy Wood where a changes are proposed by St Pauls Developments.
Members of the Woodland trust lead a protest at Smithy Wood where a changes are proposed by St Pauls Developments.
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A community’s bid to protect ancient woodland earmarked for controversial plans is to be decided this week.

Cowley Residents Action Group says its proposals to list Smithy Wood in Chapeltown as a village green were made to stop motorbikes and cars from causing damage, and before plans for an Extra motorway service station there were revealed this year.

But if the bid is approved by a Sheffield licensing committee on Thursday, the land next to junction 35 of the M1 at Cowley Hill will be granted protection that rules out development unless there are very special circumstances. It is already within Green Belt.

Jean Howe, action group chairman, said: “If we do stop the planning from going ahead, fantastic, but the majority of residents have used this land for decades.

“It has never been said to be private land and we just wanted to protect it from these 4x4s and motorbikes.”

Applications for village greens must show a ‘significant’ number of people have used land for sports and pastimes for at least 20 years.

Many residents have written in support to say they have long used the ‘precious’ woods for walking, wildlife watching, horse riding and more activities.

But Axis 1 Limited, a subsidiary of St Paul’s Development which owns most of the site, has objected and says there is a ‘fundamental lack of evidence’ to show it is used as required under law.

The firm claims the bid, submitted in November 2013, is an attempt to ‘block’ the development.

Plans for the station – objected to by thousands – have yet to be heard.

Mrs Howe added: “It’s obvious when you walk through the woods there are footpaths people use.

“We are a little group fighting big business.”