The Council’s decision to deny planning permission to Redwall Developments for part of Grimesthorpe Road has been overturned in a public inquiry.
Redwall Developments cleared the land in summer 2005 before applying for outline planning permission to build flats.
Residents then witnessed large amounts of building rubble and topsoil being dumped on the land. The area had been home to bats, owls, foxes and numerous birds and a rare Holly Blue butterfly had been sighted there.
Sheffield City Council turned down the application and Redwall appealed against the decision at a public inquiry that took place between 28th November and 1st December 2006. Redwall’s solicitors argued the site was a brown-field site with no amenity or wildlife interest and that this was the case before clearance; also that housing was desperately needed in the area.
Two planning officers and three local residents spoke against the development, citing its importance as a green-field site with local amenity value in visual terms and relevance to the adjoining Area of Natural History Interest known as Smithies Field or Wood Hill. It was argued that there are already extensive areas of previously developed land within the City and considerable amounts of housing currently under construction or planned for, within Burngreave.
After the opening statements, local residents were not given an opportunity to crossexamine Redwall’s solicitors. It appears that, whatever amenity and conservation value a site may have, once it has been bulldozed a developer is free to make applications for development based on the land after demolition and destruction.
The rubbish tipped on the site has now been moved by Redwall to an area against the trees that borders the Area of Natural History Interest/Smithies Field. Although a tree preservation order was issued on the site after initial clearance, most of the trees were already felled and other trees near the public footpath were cut back after this.
The character of our ‘country lane’ and associated open space looks set to deteriorate further. It seems that unless they are designated as public parks then they are easy pickings for developers to ruin
by Jim Bruce
The Council denied that the outcome of the inquiry set a precedent for developers to destroy green spaces in order to ensure planning permission is granted. Les Sturch, head of the Council’s planning department said they would continue to be tough on developers who cut down trees with preservation orders. He said:
“The Council will monitor the site to check on what is happening on it and it is open to local residents to contact us if they have any concerns over any work carried out on the site so we can check if there has been a breach of planning control.There is no right of appeal against a Planning Inspector’s decision, either by the Council or third parties. The decision can be challenged by Judicial Review but only if the Inspector is considered to have erred in law, not just because the Council or residents disagree with the decision.”
If you are concerned about anything that is happening on the site contact the planning department on 273 4215. Tree preservation orders are in place, and full planning permission must be granted before any building work can start.
Jim Bruce's full report on the Inspectorate's decison is in Decision on Grimesthorpe. This also includes links to the Green Audit and previous Messenger coverage.