Smithy Wood earmarked for motorway services – conservationists in uproar as ancient woodland comes under threat

Stained glass window in the chapter house, Sheffield cathedral depicting the Kirkstead Abbey monks manufacturing iron at their grange on Thorpe Common

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.

The bluebells of Smithy Wood

Smithy Wood under threat 2

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 . 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.

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3 Responses to Smithy Wood earmarked for motorway services – conservationists in uproar as ancient woodland comes under threat

  1. Simon Geller says:

    What is even more disturbing judging from this event – is that if it goes to appeal, Eric Pickles will approve it. This man is a intent on destroying communities and the environment and needs to be stopped.

  2. JOHN says:


  3. Technotronic says:

    As a user of the M1 for years, I have never thought that the stretch of the M1 between Nottingham and Wakefield needed another motorway services. I honestly do not understand why anyone thinks there needs to be another services, not least because so many drivers now have satellite navigation devices that alert them to the whereabouts of and distance to and between motorway services. Another thing is that there are so many former colliery sites that could accommodate a new services, why not look at using one of those sites? Anyway, just a thought, but I can’t help thinking that making the case for protection of Smithy Woods based on ecological and archaeological value alone is clearly not going to achieve much. Realistically, there are so many nicer, more accessible, woodlands for people to visit that I reckon relatively few, in comparison, visit Smithy Wood. If the woods is to stand a better chance of not being developed, then someone, or some organisation needs to perform a monetary valuation of the actual and potential ecosystem goods and services it provides and is likely to provide. Money talks!

    There is freely available software to help people do this. In theory, anyone could do it. Torbay Council have used such software to place a monetary value on their trees and woodlands. Their methodology and results are reported in the following document:

    Rodgers, K., Jarratt, T. and Hansford, D. (2011) Torbay’s Urban Forest: Assessing urban forest effects and values, Exeter: Treeconomics.

    Available as a free PDF document at:

    Readers should note that the following addendum was issued by the authors following publication:

    “It has come to our attention that the tonnes measure used throughout this report has been referred to as; tonnes, tons, metric tonnes and metric tons. To note, all weight measures were taken in tonnes.”

    You can find out more about I-Tree and access the software at the following link:

    Links to further information that may be of interest can be found on the Stocksbridge Community Forum:

    Again, the Smithy Wood case highlights the need for an adopted tree strategy.

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