Fresh delay on controversial plan to build M1 service station in woodland

Plans for an M! service station at Smithy Wood have stirred up controversy
Plans for an M! service station at Smithy Wood have stirred up controversy
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A long-delayed decision on the potential building of a controversial new motorway service station on ancient woodland has been postponed again.

Sheffield Council has agreed with developers hoping to build a new £46m Extra service station for the M1 at Smithy Wood near Chapeltown to put back a decision on whether to grant planning permission until the end of February 2016.

Protestors gather at Smithy Wood off Junc 35 of the M1 near Sheffield to show their opposition to a proposed motorway service area at the site. Picture Scott Merrylees

Protestors gather at Smithy Wood off Junc 35 of the M1 near Sheffield to show their opposition to a proposed motorway service area at the site. Picture Scott Merrylees

The controversial application was originally submitted in March 2014 and has attracted thousands of objections.

In autumn 2015, a decision by the council’s planning committee was delayed until January 2016 to allow developers time to submit further information and technical studies to the authority, which were sent in by October 7.

But Sheffield Council planning bosses have now asked for further time before making a decision, which has been agreed to by the developers.

A letter by Eleanor Ridge, from the council’s development management department, to the Pegasus Group, who are acting on behalf of Extra, said: “Whilst every endeavour has been made to reach a decision on your application within the statutory time, unfortunately this has not been possible because we have been working to address concerns with this application and this has taken some considerable time.

“I am writing to ask you to formally agree to extend the period before deciding your application until February 29, 2016, to allow for all the outstanding matters to be concluded.”

Andrew Long, chief executive of Extra, has previously said the new service station at Junction 35 of the M1 would create around 300 jobs, while 60,000 trees would be planted to outweigh the loss of ‘low quality’ ancient woods.

He said the site has been designed to ‘take the poorest woodland and protect the best areas’ and there is a clear need for it to be built.

Developers say drivers currently have to go 42 miles between existing service stations on that stretch of the M1 without a break area.

The application is opposed by groups including The Woodland Trust, who say it would be ‘incomprehensible’ to allow a motorway service station to be built on top of a centuries-old habitat.

Oliver Newham, senior campaigner at the trust, said in October: “Planning permission must be refused and an alternative location sought for this venture.”