Campaign group unveils plan to protect Sheffield's 'beautiful' green belt

The old Hepworth Refractories in Loxley Valley.
The old Hepworth Refractories in Loxley Valley.
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A countryside protection group has set out a blueprint it says will provide the homes Sheffield needs without sacrificing the city’s ‘beautiful’ landscapes.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has this week released a plan designed to guide development in and around the city.

With the city council working on its own local plan, which will specify where developers can and cannot build until 2034, the group hopes to highlight the important of protecting green belt land.

The ‘radical’ vision includes several tests that the group - which mapped and advocated for a green belt in Sheffield in 1937 - hopes council planners will take on board.

The campaign’s planning officer for South Yorkshire Andrew Wood, who co-authored the report, said: “Sheffield’s Green Belt has never been more valuable to us, nor has it been under greater threat since we first fought for its protection in the 1930s.

“A crazy numbers game, imposed by central government, and uninspiring ‘Lego-land’ developments by the big house-builders risk losing all that is special about our local countryside.

Griff Works in Stannington.

Griff Works in Stannington.

“Something has to change and change quickly and we look to the city council and its planners to take up the challenge.”

According to the report, Sheffield should only grow outwards if it is already making the ‘best use of urban opportunities’.

This includes denser development and the re-use of Brownfield sites.

Secondly, any proposed changes to the green belt must deliver ‘truly special and sustainable development’ that will meet housing need - particularly when it comes to affordable and social housing.

Smithy Wood.

Smithy Wood.

The campaign has repeatedly expressed concern at developers trying to shirk their affordable housing responsibilities, as highlighted in the Oughtibridge Mill report on these pages last week.

And lastly, the group wants planners and developers to take particular care with brownfield sites.

Among causes for concern are the old Dyson Industries factory known as Griff Works, which Avant Homes has planning permission to turn into a housing estate, and the Hepworth Refractories site in the Loxley Valley, which developers tried to regenerate about a decade ago.

The campaign is also worried about schemes such as Extra Motorway Service Area Group’s plan for Smithy Wood, which is still in the planning stage.

The report recognises new homes are ‘vital’ but says existing building plans will do ‘very little’ to address the affordable housing ‘crisis’ facing families and young people.

“The only people set to benefit from future release of Green Belt land will be landowners and the big house-builders, not communities in need of decent, affordable housing,” it adds.

“We hope this report will spur everyone to understand there are win-win solutions possible,” said Mr Wood.