PLANNERS are facing increasing challenges from housing developers who will this month try to de-rail their attempts to build new homes in Barnsley villages as part of the long-term goal of meeting future housing needs.
The backlash is a result of an extended process of finding sites for the thousands of homes which are known to be needed to meet the district’s housing needs into the 2030s.
Council officials now stand accused of making unsuitable choices for housing land in two villages, with developers set to make a case for alternative sites when a Government planning inspector conducts an examination of their proposals in a public hearing.
Green belt sites in the villages of Oxspring and Silkstone Common have been proposed by the council among sites to provide new homes, in a response to an earlier criticism from the inspector that too little development in Barnsley’s rural communities was proposed.
Now Miller Homes has begun lobbying for the development of a ten hectare site in Silkstone Common, capable of taking 200 homes, instead of a site found by the council which could take 50 houses.
That follows from Oxspring, where the council’s preferred site on green belt fields alongside the River Don is being challenged by developer Yorkshire Land which insists a larger site on the edge of the village is a wiser choice.
Villagers in both communities are opposed to the council’s proposals, but in each case also argue that there are problems with the sites suggested by developers.
Planning consultant Paul Butler, working for Miller Homes, attended a meeting of Silkstone Parish Council to explain the plan and found opposition from the Keep Silkstone Common Green pressure group.
They say the land earmarked by the council, off Moorend Lane, is not available for building but also object to a large development elsewhere, on the grounds that the village lacks the facilities to support so many new homes.
That echoes objections from Oxspring, were both the council-proposed site and the developer’s proposed land are facing opposition.
Mr Butler told the meeting that although ten hectares of land off Knabbs Lane was being proposed, an area which could accommodate 200 homes, an actual development may be smaller, should it go ahead.
Miller Homes’ reasoning for proposing the site is that it is within easy walking distance of a railway station, an unusual asset in a village, on a site which is not overlooked by other homes and also constrained by natural boundaries which prevent ‘creep’ further into the green belt.
He also said the developer was willing to open up Nether Royd Wood, which forms part of the site and is currently privately owned, to the public as part of any planning deal.
However, residents are concerned about a range of issues, including traffic safety from the potential of putting hundreds more cars into the area and the limited facilities which exist in the village.
Jill Hayler, of Barnsley Biodiversity Trust, also raised the issue of protecting the rare species which exist in that woodland and Knabbs Wood, which is also part of the site.
“It is ancient woodland and I am very concerned about the suggestion you have made for the use of it,” she said.
“There is a lot of rare stuff within those woodland areas.”
Silkstone Parish Councillor Derek Liddell told the meeting: “I am sure there are a lot of people with a lot of concerns. The fact is, it is in the green belt.
“I don’t see the point of green belt if we are to say we will let that go ahead.
“My approach is that this should be the very last site in Barnsley to have house put on it, after everything else has been exploited.”
Vice chairman Richard Leech said: “The major concern I have is the road and traffic, that is the key point.”
After the meeting, Keep Silkstone Common Green’s Dave Griffin, also a Barnsley Councillor, said they agreed with Paul Butler’s assessment that the council’s preferred site was unsuitable, and said: “We have been arguing that all along. However, we think the village is unsuitable because of the lack of facilities.”
Mr Butler said feedback from the meeting would be used to help formulate Miller Homes future plans.
They will rest on whether the Government inspector approves the council’s suggested site in Moorend Lane or accepts the argument that it should be replaced.