Fight to save ancient woodland in Sheffield 'not over' say campaigners, despite M1 service station ruling

Campaigners fighting to save ancient woodland in Sheffield have welcomed a key ruling which could halt plans for a service station there.

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 3:40 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 4:28 pm

But they insist the battle to protect Smithy Wood, off junction 35 of the M1, near Chapeltown, is far from over despite rival proposals for a service station at junction 33 of the motorway getting the go-ahead.

Rotherham Council today approved Applegreen’s plans for a £40m rest stop straddling the M1 and Sheffield Parkway at Brinsworth, which campaigners believe undermines Extra’s case for one just two junctions away.

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Bluebells at Smithy Wood (pic: Dave Dickinson, Sheffield Environmental)

Sheffield Environmental launched a petition signed by nearly 5,000 people to protect ancient woodland like that at Smithy Wood and organises monthly litter picks at the beauty spot, which it claims is a hugely important wildlife habitat.

Dave Dickinson, the group’s lead campaigner, said: “It’s great news for Smithy Wood that these other plans have been given permission but the challenges aren’t over. The site’s still owned by a development company, which has deep enough pockets to challenge this legally.

“Our Smithy Wood Action Team (SWAT) will still be there on the first Sunday of each month until the landowners let either us or another suitable organisation like Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust or the Woodland Trust in to manage it as a nature reserve.

“It needs to be looked after properly because at the moment it’s used by fly-tippers and joy riders in their 4X4s.

“This site’s regionally important for invertebrate diversity and nationally important as one of only a handful of ancient woodlands like this in the country.”

Extra Motorway Service Area Group applied more than five years ago for permission to build at Smithy Wood but a decision was put on hold by Sheffield Council pending a verdict by Rotherham Council on Applegreen’s junction 33 proposals.

The Star has contacted Extra, which has yet to respond, about what today’s decision does means for its plans.

The firm previously said the benefits of a service station at junction 33, which it claimed was needed for safety reasons, outweighed the loss of what it called ‘low quality' ancient woodland.

It also claimed it was ‘highly unlikely’ that planning consent would be granted for the junction 33 site due to what it described as ‘inherent constratints’ there.

Even if the green light for a junction 33 service station does spell the end for the controversial Smithy Wood proposals, against which more than 800 objections were submitted, Mr Dickinson said the woodland could face another threat in the form of HS2.

The original route ran through part of the ancient woodland and although the latest plans avoid it Mr Dickinson pointed out that Rotherham and Doncaster councils have said the high-speed rail scheme would get their backing if it reverts to that former path.