Inquiry ordered for Smith Woods’ village green bid

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 SM1002/87c
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 SM1002/87c
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An inquiry will now be held into a bid to create a village green at Smithy Woods in Chapeltown – which could be developed with a motorway service station in separate plans.

Sheffield Council’s licensing committee was expected to hear the bid to protect the area from damage caused by vehicles yesterday, but a last-minute call for an inquiry to be held was made by lawyers acting for the landowners.

Axis 1 Limited, a subsidiary of St Paul’s Development which owns most of the site, had objected and lawyers told councillors they wanted a non statutory inquiry because of a lack of ‘clarity’ in evidence could lead to ‘unfairness’ and they had not seen all of it.

Barrister Martin Carter also quoted case law which said an inquiry should be held when there was a ‘serious dispute’, and that starting a hearing would be a ‘waste’ of all parties’ time.

But campaigners with Cowley Residents Action Group said they feared an inquiry would be held long after the plans for an Extra motorway service station were decided by planners – and that trees could be ‘chopped down’ before their bid to protect the site had been decided, as it would not count as starting work.

Paul Brackenbury, deputy chair of the group, said it was a ‘delaying tactic’.

He told councillors: “We are disappointed by the developers in their objection, in that we are people, unpaid people who are volunteers, working on behalf of residents.”

Speaking afterwards he said there was no timescale for when an inquiry would happen.

He understood the council would foot the bill – which could be ‘significant’ – and residents felt the council should have decided the bid as the relevant authority.

Coun Geoff Smith, committee chairman, said in his decision: “The committee’s view is justice would be best served by a non-statutory inquiry. The planning application will be dealt with as a separate issue.”