New consultation due over Smithy Woods service station plan

Robin Ridley and Oliver Newham from the Woodland Trus tin Smithy Wood
Robin Ridley and Oliver Newham from the Woodland Trus tin Smithy Wood
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A new consultation on controversial plans to build a motorway service station on ancient woodland is due to start.

Thousands of people have already objected to the £46 million plan for an Extra station at Junction 35 of the M1, beside Smithy Woods in Chapeltown.

A decision by Sheffield Council’s planning committee was delayed until January 2016 to allow Extra to submit further information and technical studies to the authority, which it completed last week for the deadline of October 7.

Further consultation will now be held and the council has said these will be on ‘mitigation measures’ proposed by the applicant, which include merging four woods and managing them as a community woodland.

But campaigners say there can be no compensation for bulldozing 16 acres of 12 century woodland as it can never be replaced.

They also fear that a precedent will be set if permission is given for the development.

Oliver Newham, senior campaigner at the Woodland Trust, said of the new consultation: “This wood is a rare, centuries old, irreplaceable habitat making it nationally significant as well as a valuable place for recreation for local people.

“Its soils have evolved over hundreds if not thousands of years without any human intervention, machinery or pesticide use.

“To allow a motorway service station to be built on top of it would be incomprehensible.

“The decision here is a simple one.

“Planning permission must be refused and an alternative location sought for this venture.”

Extra has always insisted there is a ‘clear need’ for the service station in that area of the motorway.

Andrew Long, chief executive of Extra, spoke about the plans for the first time in The Star last month.

He claimed the benefits which included 300 jobs and planting 60,000 trees would outweigh the loss of ‘low quality’ ancient woods as the site had been designed to ‘take the poorest woodland and protect the best areas’.

Details of the consultation have not yet been revealed but they are expected to be so once the extra information from Extra has been uploaded to the council’s online planning portal.

Separately, a decision on a public inquiry into whether the wood should be made into a village green is also due after several delays. Residents made the application for the green.