Smithy Wood earmarked for motorway services – conservationists in uproar as ancient woodland comes under threat.
Friend and colleague Professor Mel Jones alerted me to the latest dire threat to our ecology and heritage.
This is extracted from my Sheffield Star Wildside column, this Saturday 14th September.
As if threats to street trees were not enough, developers are now turning their self-seeking, money-rules-all, eyes on our local woodlands. Not long ago, an ancient woodland in the region would have been considered sacrosanct, the highest status of sites for conservation and protection. We even have South Yorkshire Forest Partnership to promote woodlands old and new and the huge benefits to the regional economy, to wildlife and to local people that they afford. However, it seems that this no longer applies and individuals and business, purely motivated by a ‘quick buck’ for their back pockets, see nowhere are beyond their potential reach.
Everyone reading this will have seen Smithy Wood, an area of ‘ancient woodland’ whose status as such should, if the planning system is to be believed, provide protection from assault. This fragment of the once bigger Smithy Wood is an area that has survived in the face of merciless abuse over the last century and a half and is irreplaceable. The reason for its significance is that it is ‘ancient’ and therefore a unique part of our local heritage. For instance, this wood, along with its landscape and wildlife values, was historically associated with the first recorded documentary evidence of metalworking in the Sheffield area. Professor Melvyn Jones has researched this wood in detail and his report can be read on my blog https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/ . Mel told me ‘Surely a brownfield site between Junctions 34 and 36 can be found for the proposed motorway service area? Moreover, why not use Meadowhall right beside the motorway with its myriad of existing facilities? Rather than developing the site into a motorway service station, it ought to be securely fenced to keep out off-road vehicles and a long-term sympathetic management plan developed. This would encourage the regeneration of native trees, the spread of the ancient woodland ground flora and preservation of woodland archaeological features.’
This unique landscape is under threat in a way that has been inconceivable for nearly thirty years, something symptomatic of how environmental protection and values are being undermined by current political and planning thinking. We must act now to support the Wildlife Trust and others in objecting most strongly and vehemently to this cold-hearted erosion and removal of our environment. That a developer even considers this a target site is appalling and demonstrates how cynical and self-centred some people really are. There is a real danger, that worn down by so many assaults on living standards, on welfare, on services and support, local people have been bludgeoned into a lack of action. However, consider this, the unscrupulous developers, some blinkered planners and a fair few politicians will be queuing up to take advantage of weakness. Let’s not accept the unacceptable.
Read Mel’s article and report below.