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AVANT Homes at Owlthorpe fields in Sheffield – nature caged and soon to be destroyed – another self-inflicted tree disaster

Wildlife caged in & soon to be killed off …..

‘No Net Biodiversity Loss’

– what does that mean really? Government-appointed planning inspector stated that the offset here at Owlthorpe would more than compensate for any loss & indeed would enhance the site’s ecology …  really? Continue reading

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Damsels and Dragons

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More tree felling proposed

Not good!!


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Notes from a Wildlife Garden – urban roe deer

Notes from a Wildlife Garden – urban roe deer



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Exotic species of the Peak District

Exotic species of the Peak District

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Update on the Scandalous Situation of the AVANT Homes Owlthorpe Fields Development in Sheffield

Planning inspector Mr O.S. Woodwards granted the appeal by Avant Homes to bulldoze and develop this wonderfully species-rich site – with a statement that the development would add to conservation value through mitigation – blatantly untrue. The apparent cover-up goes on however, and clearly the mitigation approved by the inspector Mr Woodward is woefully inadequate and fails to come anywhere near the official government guidance. You should be able to see the detailed plans which show the inadequate buffer zone – via the local planning authority or directly from the developer. Did Mr Woodwards realise inadequacy this when he granted the appeal one wonders?

Developers, their consultant advisors, planners, and even planning inspectors are able to willingly and perhaps deliberately collude in flouting the regulations and their guidance. This is an appalling situation and even more sadly appears to reflect what is happening at many local sites across the country. Local communities are let down by parliament and their elected representatives and especially by the current government which conspires to remove what little control is left over nasty and detrimental developments.

Below is an official interpretation of the guidance to protect our most precious wildlife habitat – ANCIENT WOODLAND. The planning conditions on this aggressive housing development go nowhere near fulfilling even this minimal sop to nature conservation and local communities who use the greenspace.

Government promises of future treescapes, flood mitigation, climate, carbon, and biodiversity targets simply amount to so much hot air – empty promises from empty heads.

Natural England Statement on Buffers for Ancient Woodland – read and digest!!

Regarding buffers to protect ancient woodland from the impacts of development Natural England gives its advice on individual planning applications impacting on ancient woodland via the joint Natural England / Forestry Commission Standing Advice on ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees, as outlined in my response of 26/05/21. You are correct in your interpretation of this advice in that the buffer should be measured from the edge of the ancient woodland site as mapped in the ancient woodland inventory. The first 15m measured from the ancient woodland site boundary is a minimum buffer to prevent damage to tree roots – root protection areas. Therefore no element of a development should fall within this first 15m of the buffer zone. This would include construction and temporary impacts, such as stock-piling soils. Stock-piling soils within root protection areas (i.e. within 15m of the woodland edge) will likely cause deterioration in tree health, leading to tree dieback, negatively impacting the ancient woodland ecosystem.

Where impacts other than those impacting on root protection areas are identified then a buffer zone larger than 15m is likely to be required. The standing advice states:

“A buffer zone’s purpose is to protect ancient woodland and individual ancient or veteran trees. The size and type of buffer zone should vary depending on the scale, type and impact of the development.

For ancient woodlands, you should have a buffer zone of at least 15 metres to avoid root damage. Where assessment shows other impacts are likely to extend beyond this distance, you’re likely to need a larger buffer zone. For example, the effect of air pollution from development that results in a significant increase in traffic.

A buffer zone around an ancient or veteran tree should be at least 15 times larger than the diameter of the tree. The buffer zone should be 5m from the edge of the tree’s canopy if that area is larger than 15 times the tree’s diameter.”

Natural England empathises with yours and the residents views, our Standing Advice is clear that loss and deterioration of ancient woodland and ancient trees and veteran trees should be avoided unless:

…..there are wholly exceptional reasons
there’s a suitable compensation strategy in place

Potential impacts on the ancient woodland, such as due to alterations in the water table or increased recreation pressure should have been identified, assessed and taken into account in decision-making.

The LPA and latterly the planning inspector are the decision’ makers and Natural England can only offer its advice. Natural England has no enforcement powers in this area. If you are unhappy with the actions of the LPA you can contact the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman

or MHCLG. Natural England are exploring strategic solutions to influence decision-makers to follow the Standing Advice.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Marion Bryant,
Woodland and Trees Specialist,
Specialist Services and Programmes Team,
Natural England


This situation is just one example of a wider demise – as documented in the Guardian newspaper this week:

Government agencies and local authorities are in effect toothless tigers whilst senior decision-makers try to pull the wool over the eyes of the public and local communities with their empty promises. Developers and their tame consultants are laughing all the way to the bank……NO NET BIODIVERSITY LOSS?? Or BIODIVERSITY EXTINCTION – one site at a time!!

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Notes from a Wildlife Garden July 2021

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Our Wonderful Woods

Our Wonderful Woods – from Tito Magazine

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Professor Philip Grime – one of the world’s leading plant ecologists passed away in April 2021

I have included an extract from the BES ‘Niche’ for those who knew of Phil’s work, were perhaps influenced by him, but maybe don’t know about his passing.
He held a particular place in Sheffield’s long association with leading botanists and plant ecologists and will be greatly missed.
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Bye Bye to the Ram Jam Inn

This once historic inn on the Great Norths Road (A1) is now in the process of demolition.

I have mentioned this in a couple of tweets:

(28) Ian Rotherham on Twitter: “Highway Robbery? The Ram Jam Inn on the A1 Great North Road, Stretton, Rutland is a little bit of 1700s old England soon to be demolished for a drive-thru facility. ‘Ram Jam’ was highwayman Dick Turpin’s trick on the landlady to avoid his drink bill. More on my blog shortly!” / Twitter

(28) Ian Rotherham on Twitter: “Ram Jam – I put this up partly because I think it is sad to see heritage lost but also as an example of a typical developer ploy – acquire cheaply; allow to go derelict & then claim ‘no choice but to demolish’. The same happens with farmland bought as a speculation for housing.” / Twitter

I have also ‘borrowed’ this on-line comment – so please read the original too:

The Ram Jam Inn, Stretton, Rutland, August 2020 | Derelict Places – Urban Exploring Forum  

1. The History

The Ram Jam Inn is located on the northbound side of the A1 at Stretton, Rutland, England between Stamford, and Grantham. It closed as a pub, restaurant, and hotel back in 2012. It was put on the market for an asking price of £550,000. Since its sale it has sat empty and new owners, Birmingham-based Godwin Developments, tabled plans in October 2018 to demolish it and build three drive-in units and one drive-to unit. The inn, despite its history, has never been listed and was unsympathetically extended in the 20th century. These were rejected (and the appeal dismissed) so new plans were submitted in February 2020, just before COVID-19 struck. Although making so adjustments to the original proposal, the revised proposal still sought the demolition of the historic inn. At the current time, the planning permission application is (was) still “awaiting decision”.

The Ram Jam Inn was originally located next to The Great North Road which linked London to Edinburgh, via York. In the 18th and 19th centuries the mail and stage coaches regularly drove up and down it. This was then in turn replaced by the A1, the longest numbered road in the UK. The former coaching inn was initially known as the Winchelsea Arms, named for the Earls of Winchelsea. However, by 1802 under the ownership of landlord Charles Blake, it was unofficially referred to by locals as “The Ram Jam”. It appears to have been officially renamed the Ram Jam inn some years later in June 1878.

There are two theories as to where the name Ram Jam came from. One is that the aforementioned Blake developed a spirit/liqueur called Ramzan which then became known as Ram Jam and was sold at the inn. The second theory surrounds the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin. He was a temporary lodger here in his early days of notoriety. The story goes that one day he showed his landlady, Mrs Spring, how to draw mild and bitter ale from a single barrel. He was apparently heard to have said to her “Ram one thumb in here whilst I make a hole. Now jam your other thumb in this hole while I find the forgotten spile pegs”. He was then reported to have then made his exit without paying his bill, while his hapless landlady had her two thumbs stuck in the barrel. It must be noted that it is unlikely that there is much of the original building remaining from Dick Turpin’s time, as he died in 1739 and the existing building dates back from around 1884.

Other accounts of how the inn got its name also proliferate but I guess the real reason for the name is lost in the mists of time. What is known for certain, however, is that soul singer Geno Washington (a.k.a. William Francis Washington) named his backing band, the Ram Jam Band, after the inn and was a frequent customer while en-route to gigs. Geno Washington was later paid tribute to in Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s second number one hit, “Geno”.

I’ll leave you with this: 

2. The Explore

Not too sure I enjoyed this one that much. This place is a bit soulless (ironic, given it gave the name to Geno Washington’s band!). I know this place and came in as a customer back in the day when it was open. Hence it saddens me to see it in this state. When it closed it was in really good nick and fitted out to a decent standard. Now everything is smashed up and it is in a very poor way. I did try to have a look back in May 2019 after @tarkovsky and his report but the place had been freshly sealed. As is often the way, it has been reopened and since the application to demolish it, the present owners have showed little interest in resealing it. In fact, you could speculate than an ‘unfortunate’ fire would actually not displease then.

Even the iconic inn sign has now gone. 

So thanks to the author of the above information.  

Sadly planning consent is given, the old orchard is already flattened, and then building will shortly be reduced to rubble. Even ‘listing’ won’t protect a site like this because the classic developer ploy is to acquire cheaply – see above – and then actively allow the building to deteriorate to the point that they claim they have no alternative but demolition……..

This wonderful and iconic piece of England’s history and heritage will be replaced by a ‘drive thru retail facility’. – as if we need a few more of those!

And furthermore, new legislation by this government will shortly reduce planning controls even further. MONEY TALKS!!

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