Sheffield City Council wreak havoc on Bowden Housteads Wood butterfly meadow

Painted Lady by Lee Swords


Painted Lady Butterfly at Bowden Housteads Wood butterfly meadow  – photographed by Lee Swords – and about to be flattened – read on

Sheffield City Council wreak havoc on Bowden Housteads Wood butterfly meadow

Following from Lee Swords recent comment on this blog, I am able to confirm that the bulldozers are about to move in to destroy this part of the Bowden Housteads Wood Site of Scientific Interest (scheduled 1991). I have tried to get comment from the City Council’s Woodland Team but they don’t seem to respond and key questions have not been answered. The site is part of an Ancient Woodland and so protected under planning guidance, and despite wartime opencast coal extraction on this area, the ancient woodland status remains intact. This was recently confirmed in a report by Natural England (the government’s nature conservation advisory body), for the equally threatened Smithy Wood. Furthermore, as a site in the Green Belt, in a scheduled Green Corridor, in the South Yorkshire Forest, and importantly, owned by Sheffield City Council, the area should be protected by the Council’s own policies – even before we deal with planning issues. However, it seems that Sheffield City Council’s commitment to nature conservation and the environment is at best paper-thin. Additionally, the Woodland Trust aside, not a single one of the local conservation bodies and groups has bothered to support the local objectors and signatories (over 300) – which is a pretty shameful state of affairs.

Bowden - Lee Swords June 2014

Boys with toys – the big machines move in to flatten the breeding butterflies and bumblebees – present at this time of year. 

You might think, well it has been disturbed by minerals extraction and so if no longer merits protection. However, bear in mind that large areas of our premier ancient woodland, Ecclesall Woods, were used for quarrying for refractory ganister and for stone in the 1700s and 1800s, and there are extensive coal extraction sites too. The same applies to quite a number of other ancient woods, which had ganister quarries and mines, stone quarries and coal bell-pits during the Industrial Revolution. We still celebrate and conserve these wonderful woodland landscapes and would not dream of building on them. Nevertheless, let’s face it, Sheffield has always had a differential attitude to the areas in the east and those in the west. Sometimes this works in reverse and Ecclesall Woods was excluded from the benefits of being in the South Yorkshire Forest in the 1990s, simply on socio-economic grounds. Being in an affluent western suburb my planning colleagues deemed it unsuitable to receive recognition and support. I campaigned hard on this at the time, and the Woods were eventually accepted as part of the Forest and a major asset. The rest, as they say, is history.

Brimstone Butterfly2

 A Brimstone Butterfly – one of the less common species found here

However, it seems that we are back to the bad old days when sites and areas in the east are seriously disadvantaged – and ironic since these are the zones with most need for good open spaces – and all the benefits we know which accrue – mental and physical health, social benefits and quality of life, plus a desire to live in a particular location. During the 1980s and 1990s, in the City Council, we deliberately targeted impoverished areas like Shire Brook Valley and Woodhouse Washlands for environmental improvements and with huge success. Consider that at the time, Shire Brook had been earmarked to be landfilled with Sheffield’s waste, for the entire length of the Valley, and Woodhouse Washlands included a sizeable part of ‘Sheffield’s Noxious Trades Zone’. These trivial observations just serve to demonstrate how the east and west were considered differentially as from the 1930s Abercrombie Report, the western valleys like Porter and Rivelin were zoned for use as recreational green corridors. Of course, Abercrombie was right and just as Ecclesall Woods deserves to be celebrated as our most precious woodland site, these valleys are immensely valuable. However, this does not mean that the rest of the City has no value and that promises made to the Sheffield public can be cast aside so readily.

It seems that we are slipping back to the bad old days of east and west, of rich and poor. If you live in Ecclesall, you get a wonderful Woodland Discovery Centre in your wood, if you live in Handsworth or Darnall, you get a Fire Station. Somehow, this just doesn’t seem right. Even the environmental reports on the site missed basic information and omitted issues of impacts on the adjacent woodland archaeology – as the drains and pipelines go through the Woodland Local Nature Reserve – but nobody in authority seems to care.

Peacock butterfly on hemp agrimony in my garden

The Peacock – widespread and common but great for local people to see

In the meantime, the butterfly meadow, now as I write, basking in hot sunshine, will be a heap of soil and wasteland. Gone will be the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, the Skippers, the Blues, and Tortoiseshells, and the Orange Tips. The answer tritely rolled out is that there will be a ‘green roof’ on the Fire Station; well have you ever tried walking your dog or even meeting the neighbours on a green roof? Will the local folk be able to watch the butterflies and bumblebees forage on there? No, it is not much of a recreational open space is it? One issue here at Bowden, is that it is one of the only good quality accessible green-spaces in an area that is relatively impoverished, and for a couple of decades it has been managed with this in mind. Sadly, this site and its fate seem to symbolise much that is wrong with the way we now care, or fail to care for our local environment and for local people. In essence, lies, excuses, greed, and incompetence. Then, that is just my opinion!

Ian D. Rotherham, Writer, Broadcaster, Professor of Environmental Geography, Reader in Tourism & Environmental Change


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8 Responses to Sheffield City Council wreak havoc on Bowden Housteads Wood butterfly meadow

  1. Lee Swords says:

    Another fantastic blog update!

  2. Dan Wildsmith says:

    Why don’t local conservation groups get behind these campaigns? Surely it is the remit of any group to be active supporters, promoting campaigns to members and the public and fighting for local wildlife and social resources….beggars belief…

  3. Sally Goldsmith says:

    Put a link on twitter and got a reply from Jack Scott saying we need to protect butterflies but we need to protect people from fire too! They just don’t get it.

  4. Sally Goldsmith says:

    Now having a right ding dong with Jack Scott on Twitter. He says the wood is now more protected from development due to the fire station!

    • Lee Swords says:

      It is my opinion the man is an idiot of the highest order, may I ask that you contact the Sheffield Star and make your grievances known. The battle for Bowden may be lost but the protest storm could possibly deter them from making similar decisions again.

      Best regards


  5. This is another example of so much of what is wrong with the ‘environmental’ policies and community consultation and engagement. We as local community members are now told what will happen and what is good for us. Our opinions count for little – most decisions have been made before plans are made public and then they are justified by arguments which imply we don’t know what we are talking about and we are in the wrong. It doesn’t matter that the sites under threat are our cherished local green spaces which have historical continuity going back hundreds of years. The insidious chip chipping away at not just the woodland – which will be damaged by having to put services through for the new building but the surrounding area of grassland and open space – valuable for woodland wildlife and birds will not be ameliorated by green roofs and a bit of fancy (no doubt) landscaping. I was walking through another bit of local grassland – thankfully not in Sheffield Council’s control or ownership – so it may be safe for a few more years – at least until HS2! – and was struck by its diversity of structure and colour at this time of year especially. They may ‘only’ have been commonplace species but added together made a stunning display and were one patch of ‘wild’ countryside that anyone can see. Walking round the corner into a piece of woodland I was again struck by the patterns of light and shade coming through the canopy of oak trees – wonderful! We need to hang on to all these little bits and pieces and not let them be picked off and built over one by one until there is nothing left. We need to get the message out loud and clear to local politicians and other organisations – we do care about what is happening and we are not happy with the way it is happening at the moment or where it is happening.

  6. Technotronic says:

    I’ve just been reading the above article. Here are a couple of documents that all interested parties should view:

    “Objecting to a planning application”:

    Excerpts from the latter:
    “It is important to remember what the law states as it can be useful to quote this in your
    objection letter:

    England and Wales: Section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1990
    states: “Where, in making any determination under the Planning Acts, regard is to be had
    to the development plan, the determination shall be made in accordance with the plan
    unless material considerations indicate otherwise.””

    “Planning applications are decided in line with the development plan unless there are very
    good reasons not to do so – these reasons are termed ‘Material Considerations’.

    “Material Considerations are matters that should be taken into account when making a
    planning decision. A material consideration can really be anything that relates to planning
    matters, unfortunately there is no final list of what to consider! The considerations must
    also fairly and reasonably relate to the application concerned. Examples of things that would
    count are something in a planning policy statement, conservation status of a site. If in doubt
    contact your local authority to check. The legislation and policy protecting wildlife from
    development is a key material consideration. Have a look at our fact sheet ‘What protects
    your woodland from development?’ for more information on the details on what to include.
    Factors that do not class as material considerations include items such as decrease in
    property value, loss of a view, commercial competition etc. If in doubt check with your local

    Yet another example of where a local authority Tree Strategy supplementary planning guidance document would have been useful. Last month, I suggested to the Principal Planning Officer (Howard Baxter) that we should have a Tree Strategy. This was his response:
    “Thank you for your email. I have forwarded a copy to… the Landscape Manager concerning a tree strategy document. It is likely that resource restrictions will prevent the Council following best practice, as you will know the Council has been cutting back on staff resources for a number of years now and this is likely to continue for the next few years. I am afraid in the current climate we are likely to be doing less rather than more.”

  7. Technotronic says:


    British Standard 8545:2014 Trees: from nursery to independence in the landscape – Recommendations…

    The above link is a link to the standard – in its entirety! It usually costs £218, so download it now, while it is available in PDF format as a free download (no doubt it will get yoinked off the internet shortly):

    Excerpts from “Annex A (informative) “Further guidance on policy and strategy””:

    “Tree planting and continuing management are rarely without purpose.
    A tree strategy, usually produced by the local authority and linked to
    the wider strategy and policy framework, addresses the way in which the
    established policy objectives will be delivered, taking into account resources,
    pressures and environmental opportunities and constraints that will affect delivery.”

    “…It guides and informs decisions relating to the authority’s or other body’s own estates and also on other land over which the authority or other body exercises powers or controls, particularly through planning or other formal management systems.”

    “…A strategy is typically produced for a defined period of time, and allows for
    monitoring and review and for modification where needed to achieve desired

    “The management of trees, particularly within urban areas, needs to address
    potential conflicts with other land uses or activities, or adaptation to changed
    circumstances. Management and maintenance are therefore essential parts of a
    tree strategy, and the financial and other resource implications of this need to
    be addressed.”

    “Tree strategies incorporate provision for adequate financial and other resources to enable
    delivery of required levels of management and maintenance over a long-term period or, where possible, in perpetuity. They include reference to the anticipated scope of the management and maintenance inputs needed to deliver the desired objectives.”

    “Tree strategies seek to demonstrate good value by including, as far as possible, data on the estimated economic value of and return on investment from trees included in a strategy, with particular reference to ecosystem services and associated direct and indirect benefits.”

    “Tree strategies primarily focus on the public estate, owned and managed by the
    local authority producing the strategy. However, around 70% of the urban tree
    population is owned and managed outside the public arena. It is the whole tree
    population, both publicly and privately owned, which delivers the benefits
    associated with tree cover and to which new tree planting contributes.”

    “To maintain a resilient tree population capable of delivering its benefits into the
    future, it is important that linkages between the publicly and privately owned
    estates are established and maintained. Tree strategies provide a framework for
    this to happen and are therefore worthy of consultation before any planned
    tree planting is converted to action on the ground.”

    “The linkages between the publicly and privately owned tree estate are
    beginning to be recognized through the growing understanding and valuation
    of ecosystem services and benefits to which trees make a significant
    contribution. The i-tree urban forest model, which is being used more
    extensively in the UK, evaluates both publicly and privately owned trees, assesses
    their combined benefits and enables coordinated policy and strategy

    When Cllr Scott was questioned, last summer (2014) about what he was doing to ensure that such a tree strategy document would be produced and “adopted” as a “supplementary planning guidance document” within the Local Development Framework, it was apparent that he was not even aware of Sheffield Council’s “Sheffield’s Great Outdoors: Green and Open Space Strategy 2010-2030″ document, in which the Council committed to producing a “Trees & Woodland Strategy”, which, in all but name, should constitute a Tree Strategy. He commented

    “We do not presently have a strategy solely for trees. My view is that this wouldn’t be very helpful given they are an intrinsic part of the broader environment and ecology. However, I am confident that we have adopted very good practice in this area.”. “…In my view, current documents are sufficient.”

    I thought I’d just remind you of Cllr Scott’s uninformed opinion (above) on the importance of and necessity for a tree strategy, since he has had plenty of opportunity to get one draughted and adopted. Remember, he made these comments as Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene. This was after multiple attempts to educate him as to the importance of and necessity for a tree strategy had been made. He probably didn’t even to look at the documents presented to him – there is no evidence that he did, given his comments.


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