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Council wins planning appeal to stop housing development on Loxley Valley

View of Loxley Valley in Sheffield

Sheffield City Council has won its case against Patrick Properties who wanted to develop the former Loxley Works on Storrs Bridge Lane (in the Green Belt) for 300 dwellings.

The original application was submitted by the developer in April 2020 but it was declined by the council’s planning committee, who said it would harm the Green Belt, was unsustainable and a threat to wildlife and biodiversity.

The developer appealed against the decision under a formal planning inquiry. The Planning Inspector yesterday agreed with the Council, that the development would cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt and have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the site due to the urbanising effect of the proposed development and increased levels of activity.

He also concluded that insufficient evidence was presented by the developer to show that the proposals would not result in unacceptable harm to the ecology and biodiversity of the site and its surroundings. He agreed with the Council that the site is not in a sustainable location, being remote from facilities and services and an unsuitable landscape on which to build homes.

Officers from Sheffield City Council’s planning service, ecology team and landscape team worked tirelessly to present a strong case against the development, along with partners at CPRE (a countryside charity), the Friends of Loxley Valley and the South Yorkshire Bat Group.

The case is the one of the biggest planning inquiries the city has ever been involved in, with the original planning application receiving more than 1,000 objections from members of the public and local organisations and members.

Councillor Julie Grocutt, Deputy Leader at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is a very significant decision for such an important Green Belt site and one of the biggest planning inquiries we have ever seen in Sheffield. For many reasons we declined the original planning application, which had more than 1,000 objections, and we are pleased that the planning inspector has recognised this and agrees with our decision.

“The site is not only an unsustainable location for housing, but a development of this kind would have threatened many protected species and habitats, thankfully they are now protected and can continue to thrive.

“This result is testament to the tireless efforts and hard work of our planning and ecology officers, along with our partners at the CPRE, Friends of Loxley Valley, and South Yorkshire Bat Group. It is a fine example of organisations working together for the benefit of the city, our natural environment and our shared ambitions for sustainability and conservation.

“We recently supported the declaration of a nature emergency in Sheffield, and this case demonstrates our commitment to upholding our responsibilities to reverse the decline we are seeing – it is a hugely important step towards not only protecting but enhancing and nurturing our natural species and habitats and I hope that this sends a message about our requirements for future planning applications.”

The South Yorkshire Bat group played a significant role in the case committing many voluntary hours to protect the bats in the area. Eight different species of bats use the Loxley Valley to commute from habitats in the peak district, to the city and back, as well as countless other species such as badgers, reptiles, rare birds, deer, hedgehogs, possible otter and many others. The site is home to nationally significant ‘habitats of principle importance’ that can now continue to provide sanctuary for wildlife in a time of international and local biodiversity emergency.

CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire (CPRE PDSY) and Friends of the Loxley Valley (FoLV) took part in the planning inquiry, arguing in support of the city council’s decision.

Tina Gilligan, chair of Friends of the Loxley Valley (FoLV), said: “We are delighted and relieved that the Planning Inspector has upheld the decision of Sheffield City Council to refuse planning permission for the proposed Loxley valley township.

“The result reflects the views of the many hundreds of local people who opposed the scheme.

“Now that the inquiry is over, local groups are ready to talk to the site owners, Patrick Properties, about alternative plans.”

FoLV and CPRE PDSY hope that there might now be scope for compromise. The Loxley valley is a remarkable place, providing a tranquil gateway from one of the UK’s biggest cities to the eastern edge of the country’s most-loved national park.

Andy Tickle, head of campaigns at CPRE PDSY, said: “We believe the old factory site can be redeveloped to achieve outstanding environmental standards that Sheffield can be proud of.”

“With determination and willingness, we hope that all parties may now be able to work together to achieve that."