Developers lose appeal to build controversial housing estate in Loxley Valley after inspector rules against it

Campaigners have won a lengthy battle to stop a controversial housing estate with up to 300 homes being built in the Loxley Valley.
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A planning inspector has upheld Sheffield Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a new township on the Hepworth’s factory site along the River Loxley, less than half a mile from Sheffield’s border with the Peak District National Park.

Developers Patrick Properties envisaged a plan for new homes, as well as a cafe/restaurant, GP surgery, workshops, parking for almost 700 cars, a village green and public squares.

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They said it was the only way of funding a clean-up of derelict refractory works that were abandoned by Hepworth’s in the early 1990s.

Campaigners hope they can work with developers to find a compromise for the site, abandoned by Hepworth\'s in the 1990sCampaigners hope they can work with developers to find a compromise for the site, abandoned by Hepworth\'s in the 1990s
Campaigners hope they can work with developers to find a compromise for the site, abandoned by Hepworth\'s in the 1990s

There were almost 1,000 objections, planning officers advised against it and councillors refused permission a year ago but Patrick Properties appealed.

Inspector Martin Whitehead found in favour of the council and ruled that the development would substantially harm green belt countryside following a three week inquiry.

He said it was in breach of national planning policy, and would damage the special character of the Loxley Valley, an important “green corridor” that required safeguarding.

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The old factory buildings were in mature woodland that largely screened them from view, he said. In contrast, the estate would urbanise and intensify activity on the site, altering its character and encroaching into the countryside.

This would result in “a suburban domestic setting that would visibly increase activity and lighting and result in greater noise in the area both during the night and day”.

Mr Whitehead said the development would lead to unacceptable loss of mature trees, and he was unconvinced that it would not damage ecology and biodiversity.

The site was also in a steep valley bottom and remote from local services leaving new residents dependent on their cars.

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Mr Whitehead recognised that redeveloping the site would bring some benefits but said Patrick Properties had failed to set out the very special circumstances needed to justify building on this scale in the green belt.

Friends of Loxley Valley and the Campaign to Protect Rural England were delighted and relieved and thanked everyone who had donated to a fund to fight the appeal.

They now hope to work with Patrick Properties, who own the site, to find a compromise.

Tina Gilligan, chair of the Friends group, said: “The result reflects the views of the many hundreds of local people who opposed the scheme.

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“Now that the inquiry is over, local groups are ready to talk to Patrick Properties about alternative plans.

“We are not resistant to change. Quite the opposite. Most of the old factory buildings have stood derelict for too long, and the last two years plus of stand-off has been exhausting for all concerned.”

Andy Tickle, head of campaigns at CPRE, added: “We believe the old factory site can be redeveloped to achieve outstanding environmental standards that Sheffield can be proud of.

“With determination and willingness, we hope that all parties may now be able to work together to achieve that.”