Smithy Wood planning

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In response to the article quoting Andrew Long, Extra MSA CEO, (Page 4, September 30), Mr Long may be a good business entrepreneur, but his comments about Smithy Wood expose his complete lack of planning or ecological knowledge.

He confuses plant diversity with overall biological diversity. It is actually the variety of insects and birds in the tree canopy and organisms living in the long-established soil that make ancient woodland so valuable.

National Planning Policy states that development on ancient woodland should be refused “unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss”. Further guidance reminds planners that, because ancient woodland is irreplaceable, compensation proposals should not be considered to be a benefit of a scheme.

The Woodland Trust is not against the applicant’s proposals for more woodland planting and investment in community woodland management in the area. Indeed, all major developments should have such aims. But the fact remains that it should never come at the expense of irreplaceable habitat such as ancient woodland.

Planning guidance also asks “is the site of the ancient woodland the only possible place for this proposal? Does it have to be on the ancient woodland site (ie is it location dependent) or can it go anywhere else?” The answer is clearly no; motorway service stations do not have to be on top of ancient woodland.

With just 2 per cent of the UK now covered in ancient woodland and our records showing loss or damage to 180 ancient woods over the last 10 years, there are both local and far-reaching consequences should Smithy Wood be lost. It need not be the case.

Mr Long’s belief that he can speak for the majority of people in North Sheffield is completely misguided. Has he forgotten the thousands of local people, four MPs and the numerous community groups and organisations objecting to the planning application – not only due to the wood’s value locally, but highlighting its national significance as well?

Richard Barnes

Senior Conservation Advisor, Woodland Trust