Residents have been left ‘heartbroken’ after a planning committee rejected an application to establish an ancient Sheffield woodland as a protected village green.
The Cowley Residents Action Group, or CRAG, submitted an application to the council’s sub-licensing committee to protect Smithy Wood – a 12th century forest – and prevent it from being developed into a proposed motorway service station.
After the committee meeting yesterday, campaigner Dr Christina Perring, of Cowley Lane, Chapeltown, called the decision a ‘tragedy’ and said: “We’re as devastated as the woodland is going to be.”
The application was rejected on the recommendation of London barrister and planning inspector Richard Ground, who concluded after an inquiry that the public’s use of the woods was ‘trivial.’ In his report, he said: “There was insufficient use to indicate the land was in general use by the local community for informal recreation rather than occasional use by individuals as trespassers.”
Residents disputed his report and claimed they have enjoyed walking, bird-watching, playing and bike riding on the land for generations.
Dr Perring, who says she picks blackberries on her walks in Smithy Wood twice a week, said the inspector ‘didn’t have the heartfelt love of nature that we have.’
Jean Howe, chair of CRAG, said: “The only thing we can do is to take them to a judicial review. It will cost tens of thousands of pounds and we don’t have that sort of money. We’re a local group.”
She said protestors will now focus on fighting a planning application for a £40 million service station off junction 35 of the M1. It will comprise an 80-room hotel, food court and filling station.
Jean said: “We truly believe there isn’t a need for a service station here. Meadowhall is the next exit down. How many hotels are there? If someone really wants to come off the motorway, surely they could come off there?”
Andrew Long, of Extra Motorway Services, has claimed the service area will give motorists a much-needed rest and help prevent fatal crashes.
He said: “We are proposing a service area that stops people getting killed. There is a clear, road safety-related need for a service station in this area.”