Community in focus: Proud Oughtibridge residents fighting to protect their village way of life

Jo Brook and Tim O' Connell, co-chairs of Oughtibridge Gala.
Jo Brook and Tim O' Connell, co-chairs of Oughtibridge Gala.
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From the outside looking in it is fair to say the picturesque village of Oughtibridge keeps a relatively low profile.

Residents seem to enjoy its status as a quaint village located five miles from the hustle and bustle of Sheffield city centre and in the heart of the beautiful Upper Don Valley.

Angela Smith MP.

Angela Smith MP.

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But you don't have to dig far beneath the surface to find there are plenty of burning issues that villagers are concerned could threaten their peaceful way of life.

In recent years residents have shown just how much the place means to them by campaigning on a number of issues. From tackling speeding drivers and helping businesses ravaged by fire to lobbying the council to protect the area from 'over-development' and for better flood defences.

Residents are currently lobbying Sheffield Council to look at traffic management improvements.

They claim there are almost daily 'near misses' at the junction between Jawbone Hill and the A6102.

The former Oughtibridge Mill site.

The former Oughtibridge Mill site.

More than 700 people signed a petition to back up their claims and the council is conducting a review of the area's accident history to see what improvements can be made.

Hannah Chaplin, aged 32, who represents Oughtibridge on Bradfield Parish Council, said: "The main road goes from a 50mph to a 30pmh limit so there is a problem with speeding drivers. There is also a zebra crossing and a bus stop near the junction.

"There has been a few accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. We have asked for the crossing to be moved but mainly we want the authority to look at the whole picture to see what can be done."

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Coun Hannah Chaplin.

Coun Hannah Chaplin.

Another hot topic is the issue of flooding after the area was hit badly during the downpours of the summer of 2007 that caused millions of pounds worth of damage across the city.

The council and Environment Agency has been consulting with Upper Don Valley residents on what can be done to protect homes and businesses from water damage.

Coun Chaplin said: "There was a concern that a large number of trees would have to be cut down to make way for flood defences in Coronation Park. But on the other side you have people who were flooded saying they need protection.

"It is good to so many people taking part in the consultation, and shows how strongly people feel about the village."

The River Don at Oughtibridge.

The River Don at Oughtibridge.

The plans being considered involve creating flood storage areas in the park and constructing new embankments along the River Don to hold back the water in heavy rainfall.

The council is now working with central government and the Sheffield City Region to look at funding options to deliver the project in the coming years.

Another concern is that the village could lose its identity and become 'over-developed.'

Coun Chaplin said there are plans to build up to 1000 new homes in and around the A6102 that runs through Oughtibridge, Deepcar and Stocksbridge.

This includes plans to build 320 homes on the former Oughtibridge Paper Mill site.

The housing will be delivered through a range of schemes, all of which are at different stages of planning consent.

A procession as part of Oughtibridge Gala.

A procession as part of Oughtibridge Gala.

Coun Chaplin said: "There is concern that the infrastructure won't be able to meet the influx of new housing.

"The schools for one are already oversubscribed. I think the majority of people are generally in favour of development.but we are saying to the developers and the council that the infrastructure needs to go hand in hand with it.

"So with Oughtibridge Mill we have asked for more paths and better links into the village so the people that live there can become part of the community."

Angela Smith, MP for Stocksbridge and Penistone, also raised similar concerns that Oughtibridge's "village way of life is in danger from development."

She added: "While we need new homes there is a fear that Oughtibridge’s very essence could be lost with over development."

Despite the concern over the old mill site, the developer Commercial Estates Group was granted outline planning permission in November last year.

They are expected to submit more detailed plans with work due to start before the end of the year.

Aside from sticking up for themselves, residents have also shown recently how they look after their own.

A blaze ripped through the Nicholson's newsagents and Jade Garden restaurant in Langsett Road South on March 8.

Both have served the community for years and within hours of the blaze people had launched an online fundraising page to help both business owners to get back on their feet.

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More than £2000 has so far been raised thanks to individual donations from more than 120 villagers.

Catherine Fletcher, who launched the page, said: "The community has a lot of spirit and this is a great example of this."

When you consider the assets available to Oughtibridge residents it is easy to see why people in the village are so passionate about where they live.

Ms Smith MP said: "It’s a place that still retains a village feel despite recent development with small shops and pubs and of course its own very successful park and cricket club.

"It also a genuine mixed community crossing all social divides and manages to bring people together.

"On hot summers day there’s nothing better than walking up by the side of the River Don into the village and stopping for a nice cold drink."

Coun Chaplin added: "There is so much going on. It’s a wonderful and friendly place - every time you go out, you’ll bump into someone your know - especially in the summer when a lot of parents and children congregate in Coronation Park after school.

"Oughtibridge is also well known for its access to open countryside in neighbouring Bradfield and mountain biking too."

One event that everyone in the village is looking forward to is Oughtibridge Gala, which has been running for more than 30 years.

There will be a procession through the village before arriving at Coronation Park when the fun gets underway with a range of stalls, activities and games.

This year's extravaganza will have a 'Wild West' theme and gets underway on Saturday, June 30, from 1pm onwards.

Jo Brook, co-chair of the gala, said: "It’s a day when you can see the community spirit which makes Oughtibridge a great place to live."

Oughtibridge sign.

Oughtibridge sign.