A new township would enhance the Loxley Valley, say developers gearing up for planning inquiry
Developers behind plans to build a controversial township in Sheffield say they don’t want to “leave a bitter taste” in the mouths of local residents.
Patrick Properties was refused permission by Sheffield Council to build up to 300 new homes on the former Hepworth’s site in the Loxley Valley.
It envisaged homes, a community homeworking hub, cafe/restaurant, GP surgery, workshops, parking for around 650 cars, commercial parking, a village green and public squares.
More than 900 residents objected and councillors unanimously refused the application. Patrick Properties has appealed – a planning inquiry will be held in April – but it’s hoping to win over the hearts and minds of local people before then.
The site has stood empty since Hepworth’s abandoned its industrial buildings in the early 1990s.
Patrick Properties acquired the land in 2018 from Bovis and have since been in discussion with the council about developing it. It says a housing estate is the only way of funding a clean-up of the derelict refractory works.
Danny Kennedy of Patrick Properties, said initially Bovis planned a 500 home development but their scheme will reduce the footprint of the built area, the volume and the height of the buildings. The site would include 10 per cent affordable housing plus an 80-bed care home creating 70 jobs.
The company was surprised when officers published a critical report, recommending councillors refuse the scheme.
“All the noise we had been hearing from the officer was positive, from their conversations with our consultants and weekly phone calls,” said Mr Kennedy.
“Then we received an email highlighting they were recommending it for refusal so it did come as a shock to us.”
There is a fierce campaign by the Friends of Loxley Valley to fight the appeal, which has raised more than £12,000 in donations.
Mr Kennedy says they are keen to work with local residents. “We don’t want to leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths, we don’t want to be that developer that just comes in and is aggressive and makes demands.
“The one thing we have been doing during this appeal process is really looking into the objections we’ve received and getting to understand where they’ve come from.
“I think a lot of the reasons for objection were because this site has some real local importance.
“We had a heritage statement done originally which said that two of the buildings should be retained but nothing was listed. What was missed however was the fact that, okay, maybe there’s no listed buildings, but that doesn’t mean there’s no local importance or heritage here.
“So we had a heritage consultant come down to the site and we really looked into what happened here and whether there was anything we could do to build more sensitively and take into account people’s feelings.
“We researched the Great Flood of 1864 and it has real key local importance and history. Things like that can’t be forgotten so we’ve tried to pay homage to that.
“If we do get a positive result at the appeal, we will create a small museum in the retained buildings, with artefacts from the site.
“We want to engage with the community, people whose parents and grandparents worked on the site, so they can come and tell their story, share pictures and help create a big book of the history of the brickworks.
“There’s some wider educational benefits too if we engage local schools and get them to come down for educational days. These buildings will be powered by hydroelectricity which we will generate from the weir.”
The Great Flood may be history but the campaign group is worried about current day flooding as the site has been deluged in the past. They say the land just isn’t suitable for a large scale housing estate.
“In the officers report our flood mitigation was deemed to be okay,” said Mr Kennedy. “It’s something we’ve worked hard on, we’ll raise the banks of the millpond by a metre or so and that’s where the excess water will go. We feel we’ve got strong flood mitigation there.”
The site has been a thorn in Sheffield’s side for years as it runs alongside the River Loxley, less than half a mile from the border with the Peak District National Park, and locals cherish the woodland, wildlife and ecology – but that same greenery camouflages derelict buildings.
“We’ve really looked hard at this, we’ve brought in some new ecologists to ensure we leave this area better than we found it. Through some hard work and some changes, we’ve managed to get a biodiversity net gain which we think is really positive because it was previously at a loss.
“The site’s highly contaminated with asbestos and that needs cleaned up so that’s something we can also do. There’s illegal raves held here and fly-tipping so the site can be quite a danger.”
It will be one of the most pivotal planning inquiries the city has seen with objections from Gill Furniss MP, Olivia Blake MP, local councillors, Sheffield Green Party, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Loxley Valley Design Group, Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society, Grenoside Conservation Society, Sheffield Climate Alliance, Peak District National Park and Rivelin Valley Conservation Group.
Patrick Properties says anyone with queries are welcome to contact it at [email protected] Both developers and campaigners will await the planning inspector’s decision next month with baited breath.