A passionate resident claimed ancient woodland at risk of being developed is ‘integral for future generations’ as a public inquiry got underway.
Residents want to turn Smithy Wood in Chapeltown in a village green so that it can’t be developed.
As part of separate plans, landowner St Paul’s Developments could build a £40 million motorway service station on the site, which is located near to the M1.
The public inquiry at Sheffield town hall was chaired by London barrister, Richard Ground.
On the opening day, he heard evidence from resident Paul Brackenbury, who is deputy chairman of Cowley Residents’ Action Group.
The group needs to prove the woodland is well used by residents in order for it to be granted Village Green status.
Explaining his ties to it Mr Brackenbury, aged 60, of Woodburn Drive, Chapeltown, said: “I have lived next to Smithy Wood for 37 years.
“Me family and I have used the woodland for many recreational activities including walking, cycling, admiring the wildlife and different types of fauna.”
“I had my children while my wife worked on Saturdays and would use Smithy Wood often.
“When the children were younger it was great to take them through the woodland to keep active.
He said he used the woods with his children two or three times a month, but more in the summer.
By the age of 11 they played in the woods on their own.
He said the woods were well used by locals walking dogs and mountain biking.
The aim of the village green bid is partly to stop users of 4x4 cars and motorcyclists riding through the woodland.
Mr Brackenbury said issues with vehicles in the woods had ‘got worse’ over the last couple of years.
Concluding his evidence, he said: “Smithy Wood is an important part of our area and is integral for future generations.”
Martin Carter, representing St Paul’s Developments asked Mr Brackenbury how he knew his children were in the woods when they were playing unsupervised.
Mr Brackenbury said they had told him where they’d been. He also questioned how much the woods could be used by cyclists because of the thick overgrowth.
Mr Brackenbury said mountain biking was about cycling on rough terrain.
For village green status to be granted residents must prove Smithy Wood has been regularly used by a significant number of people without permission for 20 years.
A recommendation will be made by the barrister and Sheffield Council’s licensing committee will have the final say.
The inquiry continues.