Residents fight plans for up to 500 new homes on wildlife site

Claire Baker is flicking through a number of photos. “Here are birds, flowers and plants – all found on Owlthorpe Fields. It’s a haven for wildlife.”

Monday, 15th July 2019, 12:38 pm
Updated Monday, 15th July 2019, 3:01 pm
An aerial view of the site

Claire and Shirley Clayton are co-secretaries of Owlthorpe Fields Action Group which is fighting plans for up to 500 new homes on the site.

Sheffield Council says it needs to build 40,000 homes over the next 15 years and the land has been earmarked for development since the 1960s.

But almost 1,000 residents have signed a petition against the idea, saying a wildlife haven will be destroyed, there will be an increase in traffic and overdevelopment in an already built-up area.

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Owlthorpe Fields Action Group who are opposed to 500 new houses being built adjacent to Moorthorpe Bank

The action group has made contact with almost half of the households in the vicinity of the fields and says 90 per cent of the people they have spoken to so far are against the development.

Claire said: “The council says it has been a potential development site since the 1960s but it only went into the Local Plan in 2013. Up until then it was only earmarked as a potential site and other sites have not been developed.

“Near here we have the houses at Halfway next to Morrisons, ones on the former Westfield school site, some at Woodhouse, Aston Manon near J31 and Gullivers World opening.

“Some of these sites fall under Sheffield Council but some fall under Rotherham and Derbyshire. All these councils are busy building on the outskirts of their areas but the impact all comes into this area.”

Co-secretary Shirley says the site was earmarked for housing long before the area underwent massive redevelopment.

“The site was earmarked before Crystal Peaks was built and before the retail park, Asda, the Supertram, and the Westfield school development.

“There’s an alternative site at Dyke Vale Road where the Scowerdons estate was. All the infrastructure is there with roads, drains and sewerage, it’s just grassed over empty land.

“We are not saying we don’t need houses but we feel this area is so overdeveloped we are going to get gridlocked. Dyke Vale really should be the first site for developing. The infrastructure can’t accommodate any further developments and the trams are already full.”

Claire says building on a wildlife site will affect people’s mental and physical health.

“Our main bugbear is I live on Woodlands estate which was one of the first developments and if they had continued that in 2000 nobody would have objected.

“But they have left it for 20 years and it has developed a natural ecosystem with birds, wildlife, plants and flowers and a lot of people are using it for health reasons and as a nature trail.

“The council has declared a climate emergency and to plant trees yet they are intent on building on this.

“A large majority of people are against this. It’s not about being a NIMBY, people have very strong views.

“There are a lot of very unhappy people who have said the council are not listening. When the majority of people in the area are against something, why is the council not listening?”

Listen to residents, say the Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat councillor Bob McCann recently won the Beighton seat from Labour at the local elections.

He has been campaigning with residents to block the plans. “It is unfortunate that Labour is refusing to communicate with the residents of Owlthorpe Fields about the proposed sale and development of this area.

“I believe Labour should have learned lessons from the tree debacle and would wish to avoid repeating past mistakes.

“The action group are ordinary citizens who have grave concerns about the overdevelopment to the area and deserve to be listened to and their views taken into consideration.”

We need thousands of new homes, say Labour

Labour says it understands residents’ concerns but the land has been earmarked for development since the 1960s.

Coun Olivia Blake, cabinet member for finance, resources and governance, said: “The land has been designated as potential housing land since the 1960s, and the sites were part of the plans for the Owlthorpe Township, one of several new settlements collectively known as the Mosborough Townships.

“Quite simply we have to make these hard decisions because central government is forcing the council to make land available to build around 40,000 homes by 2035.”

Coun Blake said the council was doing “everything in its power” to ensure that developments were on brownfield sites.

“I completely understand local concerns about the need to protect the green and semi-rural nature of the area, but the site has been allocated for development since the 1960s and the continued township should also improve the wider green network and provide a neighbourhood focal point, including a shop and other facilities, which should be really beneficial to the area.

“Protecting green spaces in Beighton and Mosborough is really important to us and I want to reassure residents that following this long proposed development there will be no further extension of that development towards Mosborough.”

The sale is underway

No formal planning application has been submitted yet but the first plot of land is being sold.

Once the sale has been completed, the buyer is expected to gain planning permission within six months – residents say they will fight the application.

The council has received 14 bids for the 3.35 hectare plot known as Site E, predominantly from what it described as ‘volume house builders’, with the opportunity generating a ‘lot of interest’.

A further 15 expressions of interest were received for the remaining plots C and D, together measuring 4.5 acres, though a buyer for those sites has yet to be chosen.

The council has not said how many new homes are expected but planning guidelines recommend 40-60 homes per hectare, meaning up to 201 could be built on the first tranche of land and 471 could go up across all three sections.