Thousands of homes could be planned for Sheffield green belt as option in new consultation today

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Thousands of new homes could be built on green belt land in Sheffield to meet the city’s housing need, according to one option in a consultation launched today.

Using ‘surplus’ low quality open space in existing built up areas, particularly council estates, and negotiating with other neighbouring councils to have homes built on their land are also options set out in the Sheffield Council report.

The document is the first stage of a three-year process to produce a Sheffield Plan, which will guide development in the city until 2034.

It says evidence suggests that between 40,000 and 46,000 new homes are needed in Sheffield over the next 20 years because of a rising population and economic growth.

Council officers believe around 35,000 homes can be accommodated in urban areas, brownfield sites, on other sites already identified, by increasing density of some developments, encouraging more city centre housing and reallocation of employment land in places like Neepsend and Attercliffe.

But that leaves a shortfall of around 8,000 homes and one option, of building on green belt land, is likely to be highly controversial.

The consultation describes it as a ‘last resort’ but adds that if Sheffield is to meet its housing need some development on green belt is ‘likely to be needed’.

“We absolutely don’t want to build on green belt and we are determined that we are going to maximise building on brownfield land,” said Coun Leigh Bramall.

“Of the 35,000 homes, 95 per cent of the sites are on brownfield land. We also think that we could probably go further than that.”

Taller buildings in the city centre is another possibility to help squeeze more homes in and also boost footfall.

Council chiefs say they now have to consider the green belt because of a Government policy change in 2012, which means housing sites must be economically as well as physically viable, and developers are less keen to develop brownfield sites because of the costs of preparing potentially contaminated land.

Coun Bramall, deputy council leader and cabinet member for development, said the process was set nationally and restrictive.

He added: “It effectively forces you to look at green belt sites.”

The options of using green belt land could potentially result in 6,500 homes being created, if three per cent of green belt land was used.

Using surplus open space could create another 1,150 homes, if one per cent of suitable land was used, and also generate money to improve the areas in which they would be located.

The report says another option could be to extend the built-up area of Sheffield into Barnsley’s borough.

While individual green belt sites have not yet been chosen, officers say the most sustainable locations for larger urban extensions would be those that could be connected to the tram or other transport networks.

Estimates suggest that 2,000 homes could potentially be built around Stocksbridge and the upper Don Valley at Oughtibridge, 1,100 as an extension to the Waverley development in Rotherham, 2,000 in south east Sheffield and 1,000 east of Norton.

Another option is to develop multiple smaller green belt sites of around 300 homes, with potential for assessment of sites around Stocksbridge and Deepcar, Chapeltown and High Green and Oughtibridge, Worrall and Wharncliffe Side.

But building a whole new settlement, and extending existing villages, have been ruled out as options.

Officers stress no decisions have been made and hope residents will help shape the plan with their views.

The consultation will run for the next six weeks and it is intended the final plan will not be agreed until 2018.

n Visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/sheffieldplan to take part.