Developer responds to open letter on controversial Owlthorpe Fields plans

Developers that won an appeal to build dozens of new homes in a picturesque part of Sheffield responded to an open letter that said it will “rip the heart out” of the area.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 16th April 2021, 4:03 pm
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 9:08 am

Avant Homes won an appeal against Sheffield Council’s refusal of an application to build 72 new homes on Moorthorpe Way, Owlthorpe, following a five-day public inquiry.

But Owlthorpe Fields Action Group, which has fought to block the plans, said it aimed to raise £50,000 in six weeks for a statutory review of the decision on the appeal.

Earlier this week, the group announced that it was withdrawing this due to a lack of funds and in an open letter asked Avant Homes to “recognise the harm they will bring if they proceed and invite them to think again, and draw back”. It also said the developer showed “disdain” for the views of local people by appealing the council’s decision and “ignoring what passes as local democracy”.

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Owlthorpe Fields

Responding to the letter, an Avant Homes spokesperson said: “We respect people’s democratic right to object to planning decisions and believe it should be exercised with honesty, integrity and respect for the legal process.

“It is also important to note that our original planning application was refused by the members despite being recommended for approval by the council’s own planning officers.

“We have therefore been through the correct legal process regarding our appeal and this has resulted in a decision which is clear and based on sound planning principles.

“At the inquiry, the Planning Inspectorate found that any ‘loss of biodiversity and trees…would be appropriately mitigated and compensated for’ and that our development would create ‘longer-term economic benefits from the boost to local services from future occupiers’.

“The Planning Inspectorate also found that there was no substance behind both the reasons for refusal and the objections brought about by the Owlthorpe Action Group. These findings, in turn, allowed our appeal to succeed.

“Our development plans have been carefully considered and meticulously prepared to ensure we can successfully deliver much-needed new housing for local people whilst respecting the surrounding environment.

“Called Nexus Point, our development represents an overall investment of £22m and will create up to 80 direct and indirect jobs whilst providing a range of homes. This will include 15 houses to be offered at a substantial discount compared to market value.

“Although the land we will build on was designated for residential development decades ago, we appreciate that local people have regarded Owlthorpe Fields as open space for many years.

“We will therefore continue liaising closely with Sheffield City Council to ensure the preservation and conservation of woodland and wildlife surrounding the site, while also providing access to the adjacent green space for people to enjoy.

“We anticipate starting work on our development in August, with the first homes being available to be moved in to from Summer 2022.”