Campaigners who protect Sheffield’s rural landscape say they are worried changes to the Green Belt will “worsen deep social inequalities in the city”.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is awaiting Sheffield Council’s overdue Local Plan which will set out how the city should be developed over the next 15 years. Of crucial importance will be the need for tens of thousands of new homes and whether development will encroach on the Green Belt.
Last year, the CPRE published “A Blueprint for Sheffield’s Green Belt” which set out its vision. CPRE planning officer Andrew Wood says it will be a “damaging double-whammy” if Green Belt land is built on and it’s not affordable housing.
“We are yet to see the draft new Local Plan for the city, but we know two things,” said Mr Wood. “The council is trying hard to focus new development on brownfield sites but there will be proposals for some major schemes in the Green Belt.
“Sheffield should only grow outwards if it is making the best of use of existing urban land, including remodelling run-down neighbourhoods and improving urban green space.
“Brownfield sites should be prioritised, so long as they are in the right places, to help create good, sustainable places. And the Green Belt should only change if this will create truly exceptional outcomes for quality of life – not just more housing.
“Meeting people’s need for a decent home is fundamental. Therefore an essential test of proposed Green Belt changes is whether they will genuinely address housing need.
“Nationally, we have just published a report that shows Local Plans across the country are set to release Green Belt land for around 460,000 homes, but only 22 percent of those will be affordable. This is a damaging double-whammy.”
Mr Wood says he hopes the council will be robust when faced with these challenges.
“The greatest threat Sheffield’s Green Belt faces is that many of the sites housebuilders are itching to develop are in affluent, high-demand areas, where they want to build large, expensive homes.
“Time and again we have seen developers wriggle out of their obligations to build affordable homes. As a result, expensive areas will become more expensive, as new homes fuel demand, while poorer areas that need investment will be left behind.
“This means there is a huge risk that Green Belt changes in Sheffield will worsen the already deep social inequalities in Sheffield.
“We were delighted to see that Stocksbridge and Penistone MP, Angela Smith, raised exactly these issues in Parliament recently. Her constituency contains land and neighbourhoods that perfectly illustrate the challenge: brownfield sites in areas needing regeneration, and tracts of beautiful countryside that should be protected for everyone, not sold to the highest bidder for exclusive housing.”
The CPRE has been at the forefront of shaping and defending Sheffield’s Green Belt since the 1930s and has protected many miles of green land along the river valleys and out into the countryside.