Royal appointment for reprieved Sheffield fields

Celebration: Residents gather with Clive Betts MP and forester Leonie Kapadia to plant the oak at Woodhouse Mill fields. PICTURE: STEVE PARKIN
Celebration: Residents gather with Clive Betts MP and forester Leonie Kapadia to plant the oak at Woodhouse Mill fields. PICTURE: STEVE PARKIN
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CAMPAIGNERS gathered for a ceremonial tree planting to mark their efforts to save threatened Sheffield playing fields - after they were awarded protection by royal appointment.

The fields, off Retford Road, Woodhouse Mill, have been protected under the Queen Elizabeth II Fields In Trust initiative, set up as part of the Diamond Jubilee and which aims to preserve open spaces across the country.

Each field accepted into the scheme has received a commemorative plaque, a royal oak sapling grown from an acorn gathered from a royal estate, and a royal jubilee rose to be planted in the spring.

Members of Woodhouse Mill and Orgreave Community Forum gathered with Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, Sheffield community forester Leonie Kapadia and more than 20 volunteers to plant the oak.

The ceremony had been delayed from January due to icy weather.

Mr Hutchinson said: “I am just happy that we have the field protected in trust and that everyone played their part in obtaining a goal which had looked impossible three years ago when the road plans were first revealed.”

The playing fields at Woodhouse Mill had been threatened by Rotherham Council’s plans to build a road across part of the site, to link the new Waverley housing development with the A57.

A row of houses on Retford Road was also under threat.

But residents led by Derek Hutchinson and former Sheffield Steelers ice hockey player Gavin Farrand campaigned against the road and to protect the fields.

Their bid for the site to become a QEII Field In Trust was backed by members of Sheffield Council.

After the campaign against the planned road, the Government has decided it will not provide the £12.5 million of funding needed to build it.

Rotherham Council said that, without the road, it predicts congestion in surrounding areas from people heading to and from Waverley once the new homes are built.

But residents, including Mr Hutchinson, said the council should have considered an alternative route.