Developer who cleared Penistone’s “biggest white elephant” site looks back 25 years later
The Cammell Laird steelworks stood as a landmark in Penistone for more than 60 years, and the area was transformed by a small family company from a dangerous, derelict wasteland into a brownfield site, ready for 156 houses to be built.
It will be 25 years on March 9 that a small family business from Barnsley borough down an imposing 12 foot wall on the edge of the site, changing the face of Penistone forever.
The steelworks closed in February 1930, having been a working steel and iron works since it was built in 1863.
In its heyday, Cammel Laird employed 1,500 men, and the 29 acre site was taken over by the David Brown Foundries company in 1935.
During the First World War, the site produced steel rails to push ammunitions through the trenches of France.
However, by the 90s, the site had been stripped of anything of value and in place of a once-proud foundry stood a vast wasteland in a state of dangerous disrepair, with an imposing wall towering over Sheffield Road.
On this date in 1996 the 12-foot high wall on the boundary of the site came down in one day, defying expectations as part of an against-the-odds regeneration.
Steven Green is the man behind the transformation of the site, which was finally cleared in 1998.
His company, Yorkshire Land, was a small family business, and took on a task which larger businesses only dared to dream about.
After acquiring the site in 1995, Steven was told that clearing the site for development would be an “impossible undertaking”, and the stress during the four years it took to regenerate the site took its toll.
Despite the site being dubbed “Penistone’s biggest white elephant,” and being told by planning officials that it would have been impossible to remove the debris, Steven went on to be awarded by the then Mayor of Penistone for his contribution to the area.
“I’m very proud that we did it, and I don’t regret it, but it did cause humongous stress,” he added.
“It was unbelievable, there was ten meters of fill out – we took reinforced concrete foundations the size of three four double-decker buses put together.
“Prior to us buying, two other companies had tried to reclaim the site and had to pack in, it was just such a difficult task.”
Yorkshire Land managed to remove more than 10 metres of filled ground over the 12 acre site area, working seven days a week to oversee the job.
The wall, on Sheffield Road, was taken down on a Saturday, and was a huge undertaking that changed Penistone’s landscape.
“We had to get an emergency road closure, and because we had to have the road cleared within a set time, and additional machinery was brought in, in case anything was broken.
“I was on site from 4’o clock in the morning, and by 3.30 in the afternoon the road sweeper was sweeping the road off.”
Steven recalls being thanked by a man who lived opposite the wall, in a home which is now a children’s nursery, as he could read his newspaper in the front room without putting a light on for the first time.
Now, little remains of the site’s rich history.
Steven added; “Sometimes i think – did it really happen? We always want to leave an area better than it was before.”
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