New front opened in fight to prevent motorway service station being built on ancient woodland in Sheffield

How the service station planned by Extra at Smithy Wood could look
How the service station planned by Extra at Smithy Wood could look
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Campaigners fighting to prevent a motorway service station being built on ancient woodland in Sheffield have launched a new petition.

Extra Motorway Service Area Group has applied to build a £46m service station at Smithy Wood, off junction 35 of the M1, which it says would improve safety and create hundreds of jobs.

Smithy Wood as it looks today

Smithy Wood as it looks today

But its plans have proved hugely controversial, with more than 800 objections registered on Sheffield Council's website, many of which oppose the destruction of ancient woodland.

Sheffield Environmental, which has been one of the most vociferous opponents, has now launched a petition calling on the Government to give all ancient woodland statutory legal protection.

The petition states that ancient woodland - classified as an area of land which has had continuous woodland cover since at least 1600 - is an important wildlife habitat and also plays a role in soaking up air pollution and protecting against flooding.

The petition's creator Dave Dickinson, of Sheffield Environmental, said: "Ancient woodland is such an important wildlife habitat, which we can't afford to lose, which is why it needs to be granted statutory protection.

"Just two per cent of the UK is covered by ancient woodland and only 13 per cent in woodland of any sort, compared to the EU average of around 35 per cent.

"We must protect our ancient woodlands as part of a programme of woodland expansion that will help us reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slow the progress of rainwater, reducing flooding downstream."

More than 16,000 people signed a similar petition which closed in August 2016.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs responded by saying woodland cover in England was higher than it had been since the 14th century and that the National Planning Policy Framework provided strong protection for ancient woodland.

Extra has argued that a new motorway service station is needed on that stretch of the M1 as the distance between rest points is currently greater than the recommended 28 miles.

It claims Smithy Wood is the only suitable place to create one and has said new trees would be planted to offset the loss of what it described as 'low quality' ancient woods.

Rival plans have been submitted by Applegreen for a rest stop at Catcliffe near junction 33, around 10 miles from junction 35.

A decision has yet to be made on either of the proposals.

You can view the petition at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/208575.