Campaigners fight on as inspector passes plans for 397 homes on greenbelt near Sheffield

A campaigner fighting plans for 397 homes on one of Killamarsh’s last remaining areas of green fields says “it’s never over until it’s over”.

By Ben McVay
Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 9:15 am

Paul Johnson’s comments come after a planning inspector ruled that building on the controversial green belt site - near Westthorpe Business Park - was justified.

Inspector Sarah Housden ruled out two similar green sites in Coal Aston and Eckington from North East Derbyshire’s Local Plan for housing over the next 15 years.

Under planning rules developers have to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” to justify building on green belt land - and Ms Housden concluded they had failed to do so.

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Pictured are Killamarsh locals who oppose the plans - near to the site of a proposed junction

However Killamarsh locals and North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley say two green sites in Killamarsh, approved for building on, attracted similar arguments for planning refusal.

Lee Rowley has now written to the Secretary of State, urging him to review the decision.

Meanwhile, a petition calling for the sites to be removed from the local plan - including 70 homes near Rotherham Road - has been signed by over 1,000 Killamarsh residents.

Speaking about the decision by Ms Housden, Paul Johnson, chairman of Killamarsh group Residents Against Greenbelt Erosion (RAGE), said: “We always have hope but I’ve not got an awful lot.”

A view of the fields from Station Road - where campaigner Paul Johnson says "no part of Westthorpe Business Park is visible"

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Though Paul, 73, said fellow campaigners were “supportive” of Mr Rowley’s efforts, he added: “I think it’s up to us to work at the local level.”

Now the planning inspector has reached a final decision, North East Derbyshire District Council must formally accept it at a future meeting - one which Paul plans to attend.

He said: “The problem is that developers have a voracious appetite for building on green belt land because there’s less of a need for remediation works.

Paul Johnson says the "beautiful views across the Derbyshire hills to the west" - seen here - will be replaced by a housing estate

“We need to try and influence the council at their next meeting - we will try and get to the acceptance meeting and object to it.”

Planning rules state new developments should be “sympathetic” to their surroundings - with new housing located separately from the built environment often viewed unfavourably.

In her report about the local plan, the planning inspector argues that housing on the Westthorpe site would appear “in conjunction” with the business centre.

And that hedgerows “create a degree of visual containment” however Paul says this is “absolute rubbish”.

He said: “If you look at the site from Spinkhill Road you can clearly see the site that’s intended to be built on and you cannot see the business park at all.

“She says you can put a few shrubs in and that will make it invisible from Spinkhill Road but you would need to plant Giant Redwoods to hide these houses.”

Paul, a former police detective superintendent who has lived in Killamarsh for 16 years, described the Westthorpe site as “a tranquil and peaceful place with five public footpaths”.

He said: “There are beautiful views across the Derbyshire hills to the west and all that is going to go - the footpaths would be directed through residential streets.

“There’s a lack of green space already in Killamarsh and we’re going to build on one of the biggest ones we use.”

A spokesperson for North East Derbyshire District Council said consideration of the adoption of the plan would go to council “over the coming months.”

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