A Wooded Landscape Delivering the Benefits but Due for the Chop!!

A jay spotted on site and nature’s forester planting locally-sourced acorns for a free future woodland…..

A wooded landscape delivering the benefits but due for the chop?!

I imagine that if I said there was an area of urban-fringe countryside which delivered the following, you would expect its future to be safe, secure, and even celebrated:

  1. UK Biodiversity targets – a local biodiversity hotspot for birds, badgers and other mammals, and for invertebrates such as butterflies, bumblebees, hoverflies, and more…
  2. Floodwater mitigation and sustainable drainage targets – holding back the flow to sustain local watercourses and contributing to reducing flood-risk downstream
  3. Climate-change mitigation targets – the site is actively sequestrating carbon from the atmosphere to reduce greenhouse gas impacts – and this landscape provides resilience to adverse changes
  4. Health and wellbeing benefits to local people – the site surrounds a local health centre and is much loved and well-used by local citizens – it supports people’s mental and physical wellbeing – and important during COVID, has been freely available during LOCKDOWN
  5. Conservation targets and includes supposedly protected ancient woodland
  6. The ‘government’s Future Treescapes Strategy’ through safeguarding existing ancient woodland and through a spontaneous (natural) new woodland which has self-set on former farmland abandoned thirty years ago. This is now a dynamic and incredibly exciting habitat with diverse tree species, orchid-rich grassland, and extensive bramble scrub providing rich shelter and feeding for birds like bullfinches and long-tailed tits, for a wide range of butterflies, and yes, badgers, foxes and roe deer. Above all though, it is growing a huge number of new trees for the future. It is quite literally, buzzing with nature…..
  7. It is helping to address Sheffield City Council’s stated aim to deal with the ‘climate change crisis’ and the climate emergency….

And even better still, this site has cost nothing to create and costs nothing to run. Nature does it for free. Moreover the area is owned by the City Council on behalf of us, the community. So with all these positives you would be sure that its future would be safe in their hands ….. wouldn’t you?

Well no – read the action group’s blog to find out about the threats to this wonderful area

A house-builder aims to develop this as new housing, to divert drainage away from the woodland, to remove almost all the regenerating future treescape and scrub (badger, bird, and butterfly habitat), and to build way too close to the ancient woodland boundary. Furthermore, if the development does go ahead the City Council benefits from the sale of the land and from a sum paid by the developer to off-set the adverse impacts but which will be spent away from the site – I am sure that the local badgers will be relieved by the off-setting……

Selling nature by the pound……  

Sadly, this situation is being repeated across the city and across the country and nature is on its knees. Politicians make noises about climate change, about biodiversity extinction, about halting the floods, about improving health and wellbeing, and about giving future generations a world fit to live in ………..well, actions speak louder than words.

Rewilding from the window-box to the mountain top   

Across the UK, there is a massive need and indeed a desire to rewild our countryside from the urban heartlands to the rural zones. Indeed, this is not a mere ‘option’, a choice if you like, if we genuinely want to halt or at least minimize the bad effects of climate change, to reduce biodiversity extinctions, and to reduce catastrophic flood-risk; and the clock is ticking. If we fail to do this then the long-term consequences for future generations will be dire indeed.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dscn1884.jpg

If the UK government is serious about addressing these issues and if local authorities such as Sheffield City Council are genuinely committed to dealing with the climate change emergency, then it is over sites such as this that the battles must be won. And believe me, there are battles ahead if we really are to have any chance of slowing or halting the insidious death of nature. OK, so the struggle is not over if this site is bulldozed and built on, but this is one of many sites across the country and that are going down one by one. This is death of nature by a million pin-pricks and each one is an individual decision that those in charge will say ‘oh it really doesn’t matter’ and ‘it isn’t significant’. But add together all the individual sites and spaces for nature on the doorstep, and sure as can be, they each contribute to a national catastrophe that is unfolding.

We have a one-off opportunity to set this right and to help trigger the rewilding and renewal of nature that future generations will be proud of, or not. Owlthorpe Fields is just one site of many where this drama is unfolding but it is here and now and for Sheffielders, it is on your doorstep. For others away from the city, you can bet that there is something similar coming your way very soon.  

Owlthorpe Fields Action Group’s website is here: https://www.facebook.com/Owlthorpe-Fields-Action-Group-476779306142625/  . Please visit them and lend your support by commenting and by networking.

At present, the authorities and developer don’t even accept or recognise that the woodland is ‘ancient’ or that the young, regenerating woodland has any significant conservation value. They dismiss the trees and other vegetation as young, self-set, of poor quality, short-lived, and of little interest – how wrong they are! This is a biodiversity powerhouse for that whole area. If you live around Westfield, Hackenthorpe, and Owlthorpe and love to see birds, butterflies, or badgers perhaps visiting your garden, then this is where they are coming from. For local people closed in at home during COVID this contact with nature on the doorstep can be a life-saver, but blink and they will have taken it away. You need to act now and support the actions already taken by the group and their partners such as the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and supported by the South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group.

Thanks you for reading this and if it resonates with your own views then please a) make a comment; b) network it to others via social media etc; c) join the Action Group – they need (and deserve) your support.

Thanks.

Ian

ps more to follow

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4 Responses to A Wooded Landscape Delivering the Benefits but Due for the Chop!!

  1. It was lovely to meet you Ian and show you this wonderful 20 acre site.

    It’s heartbreaking to think this amazing, rewilding area full of trees, wildlife, wildflowers, grassland and scrub, could soon be bulldozed if the developer wins at appeal in January, going against the democratic decision made by Sheffield City Council Planning Committee in June this year.

    The site contains numerous priority species and priority habitats, is adjacent to woodland (likely ancient as you say above), is bordered by pre-enclosure act hedgerows (visible on maps dating back to at least 1790) and adjacent to local wildlife sites. The developer, Avant Homes, wouldn’t even move the development a full 15m away from the woodland when asked to do so by SCC, and instead said they would use ‘no dig’ methods.

    What about root compaction of the ancient/veteran trees when the development site levels are raised?

    What will happen to the ancient and veteran trees when surface water from the site is diverted away from the woodland to an attenuation pond (really a gabion walled monstrosity) hundreds of metres away? I don’t imagine the ancient trees will last long and the Ochre Dyke stream (the ancient Parish boundary and rumoured location of a Roman Road) will likely dry up.

    Avant Homes want to build up to the ancient hedgerow….. I believe the words they used were that it was ‘defunct’.

    There is at least one shallow (1m thick) coal seam under the area, but there has been no mention or calculation anywhere of how this will be dealt with or how much gas will be released during construction.

    There are whole pages I could write on ecology, open space provision, flood risk and traffic congestion, but I’ll stop there for now.

    Owlthorpe Fields is certainly not an area of scrub/grassland of ‘little ecological value’!
    The gloves are off, this site has to be saved!
    Thank you for your support. 💚

  2. Technotronic says:

    OWLTHORPE FIELDS

    SHEFFIELD & ROTHERHAM WILDLIFE TRUST (news) – 2nd March 2021
    ‘PERMISSION TO BUILD ON OWLTHORPE FIELDS GRANTED’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20210302162844/https://www.wildsheffield.com/permission-to-build-on-owlthorpe-fields-granted/

    NOW THEN – 1st June 2020
    ‘Owlthorpe Fields: Controversial housing development recommended for approval’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20201123220934/https://nowthenmagazine.com/articles/owlthorpe-fields-controversial-housing-development-recommended-for-approval

    THE STAR – Monday, 3rd June 2020
    ‘Residents’ relief as plans to build 200 homes on Sheffield wildlife haven are rejected’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20200603133944/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/residents-relief-plans-build-200-homes-sheffield-wildlife-haven-are-rejected-2873035

    THE STAR – Monday, 15th June 2020
    ‘Academic puts forward alternative vision to save Sheffield wildlife haven’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20200630175351/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/academic-puts-forward-alternative-vision-save-sheffield-wildlife-haven-2884949

    THE STAR – Friday, 25th September 2020
    ‘Campaigners face new fight to protect Sheffield wildlife haven after developers appeal’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20210305095506/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/council/campaigners-face-new-fight-protect-sheffield-wildlife-haven-after-developers-appeal-2983201

    THE YORKSHIRE POST – Saturday, 26th September 2020
    ‘Developers launch appeal after councillors block plans to build homes on Yorkshire wildlife haven’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20200928170025/https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/country-and-farming/developers-launch-appeal-after-councillors-block-plans-build-homes-yorkshire-wildlife-haven-2984242

    THE STAR – Monday, 16th November 2020
    ‘Professor warns Sheffield’s green space is slowly dying as he joins campaign to protect wildlife haven’:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20201117085025/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/environment/professor-warns-sheffields-green-space-slowly-dying-he-joins-campaign-protect-wildlife-haven-3036971

    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2020/11/16/more-on-the-owlthorpe-fields-and-woodlands-battle/comment-page-1/#comment-4945

    IAN ROTHERHAM
    ‘A Wooded Landscape Delivering the Benefits but Due for the Chop!!’:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2020/10/29/a-wooded-landscape-delivering-the-benefits-but-due-for-the-chop/

    APPEAL DECISION – 2ND MARCH 2021
    (Inquiry Held on 12-15, 19, and 21 January 2021
    Site visit made on 20 January 2021:

    Click to access Appeal%20Decision%20-%203258555.pdf

    Click to access Appeal%20Decision%20-%203258555.pdf

    Owlthorpe Fields Action Group (OAG) – Latest News & Events Page:
    https://www.owlthorpefields-actiongroup.org.uk/contact

    Comments on STAG Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1778611032315978/?comment_id=1779308495579565

    *****
    OF INTEREST…

    ‘ANCIENT WOODLAND & VETERAN TREES – THE NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK’:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/tesla-hypocrisy-unbelievable/comment-page-1/#comment-5021

  3. Technotronic says:

    NEWS – MARCH 2021

    + URBAN FORESTRY RESOURCES

    THE YORKSHIRE POST – Thursday, 11th March 2021
    ‘Things have changed dramatically’ in Sheffield, says charity Woodland Trust as it hands over £200,000 to help plant trees across the city
    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/things-have-changed-dramatically-in-sheffield-says-charity-woodland-trust-as-it-hands-over-ps200000-to-help-plant-trees-across-the-city-3161763

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311104144/https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/politics/things-have-changed-dramatically-in-sheffield-says-charity-woodland-trust-as-it-hands-over-ps200000-to-help-plant-trees-across-the-city-3161763

    QUOTE:

    “Sheffield City Council is getting £183,000 from the Woodland Trust as part of the charity’s ambition to establish 50 million more trees by 2025 to create NEW WOODS and help tackle the climate and nature crisis.

    The ‘Treevitalise’ scheme will see more trees planted across the city and engage citizens in the planting, care and appreciation of their trees, woods and greenspaces. Local officials hope the money [will] allow city teams to create COMMUNITY ORCHARDS, run sessions with schools and hold public events to celebrate trees.
    […]
    Catherine Nuttgens, Community Forestry Manager at Sheffield City Council said the project would help people in the city ‘understand our URBAN FOREST better whilst accelerating our ambition to grow it further’.”

    *****
    THE STAR & SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH – Thursday, 11th March 2021
    ‘Major cash boost to plant 20,000 new trees in Sheffield – years after tree felling scandal’
    https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/environment/major-cash-boost-to-plant-20000-new-trees-in-sheffield-years-after-tree-felling-scandal-3161378

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311141435/https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/environment/major-cash-boost-to-plant-20000-new-trees-in-sheffield-years-after-tree-felling-scandal-3161378

    https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/environment/major-cash-boost-to-plant-20000-new-trees-in-sheffield-years-after-tree-felling-scandal-3161378

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311135837/https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/environment/major-cash-boost-to-plant-20000-new-trees-in-sheffield-years-after-tree-felling-scandal-3161378

    Quote:
    “The £200,000 from the Woodland Trust, announced today, is for a ‘Treevitalise’ project to plant more trees across the city – and involve citizens in the planting, care and appreciation of trees, woods and greenspaces.
    […]
    In October 2020, SHEFFIELD COUNCIL made a public apology after accepting the findings of a damning report* which revealed it had MISLED THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY over its strategy.
    […]
    The money is from the trust’s pilot Emergency Tree Fund. Nationally it is worth £2.9 million, and aims to plant 50 million trees by 2050. Sheffield’s bid is backed by funding from corporate partner IKEA.”

    * See: ‘AN UPDATE TO THE LETTER FROM SAVE OUR ROADSIDE TREES (SORT), dated 11th July, 2016’ (scroll to item 7):
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/sheffield-tree-campaign-back-in-the-national-news-in-the-guardian/comment-page-1/#comment-4967
    Also see:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/a-review-of-some-publications-from-the-past/comment-page-1/#comment-4968

    *****
    OF INTEREST:

    1)
    ‘SCC Vs CHARITY’:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/a-wild-christmas-cheer/comment-page-1/#comment-3952

    2)
    ‘SUSTAINABILITY – FELLING – RUSTLINGS Rd’
    (AKA ‘Felling: SCC/Amey Incompetence And Deceit’ & ‘How SCC & Amey Get It So Wrong’.
    A letter that Mr Long sent to The Star, dated 22nd November, 2016. Not printed):
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/like-thieves-in-the-night-they-came-to-cut-down-the-trees/#comment-1447

    QUOTE:

    “I have met with SCC’s CABINET MEMBER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (Cllr BRYAN LODGE) and Amey’s Operations Director (Darren Butt: responsible for all highway maintenance until 2037). Neither recognise nor accept that STREET TREES ARE PART OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST. This is why they have wrongly set their own definition of sustainable tree population management: “one-for-one replacement”. It takes no account of the impact of proposals on canopy cover.”

    3)
    Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) Facebook comments:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1784619175048497/

    4)
    SHEFFIELD’S FIRST TREE STRATEGY…We’re Still Waiting!
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/sheffield-tree-campaign-back-in-the-national-news-in-the-guardian/#comment-1303

    5)
    ‘SORT – 5th YEAR ANNIVERSARY’:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/mystery-photograph-of-the-day-no-26/comment-page-1/#comment-4431

    6)
    Forestry Commission., 2011.
    The UK Forestry Standard: The governments’ approach to sustainable forest management. (3rd edition):
    http://web.archive.org/web/20120106064448/http://www.forestry.gov.uk/ukfs

    6a)
    SELECTED EXTRACTS:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/youre-nicked-my-son-street-tree-campaigners-arrested/#comment-1406

    7)
    Forest Research: Social Research Group: Ambrose-Oji, B., Tabbush, P., Frost, B., Carter, C., Fielding, K., 2011.
    Public engagement in forestry: a toolbox for public engagement in forest and woodland planning:
    https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/research/public-engagement-in-forestry/public-engagement-in-forestry-toolbox-and-guidance/

    8)
    Urban Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committee., 2016.
    Introducing England’s Urban Forests:

    Click to access IntroducingUrbanForest_FINAL_Sept16.pdf

    Click to access IntroducingUrbanForest_FINAL_Sept16.pdf

    9)
    Forestry Commission., 2016
    Urban forestry:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20160314023010/http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/BEEH-A6LMEZ

    10)
    Forestry Commission., 2017.
    The UK Forestry Standard: The governments’ approach to sustainable forest management. (4th edition):

    Click to access The_UK_Forestry_Standard.pdf

    Click to access The_UK_Forestry_Standard.pdf

    10a)
    SELECTED EXTRACTS:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1105618879615200/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311150516if_/https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1105618879615200/

    https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1270937936416626/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311135050if_/https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/permalink/1270937936416626/

    11)
    Davies, H., 2017.
    Delivery of Ecosystem Services By Urban Forests. Forestry Commission. https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/research/delivery-of-ecosystem-services-by-urban-forests/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20191105215616/https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/research/delivery-of-ecosystem-services-by-urban-forests/

    12)
    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations., 2018.
    Forestry Paper 178: Guidelines on urban and peri-urban forestry:
    http://www.fao.org/forestry/news/92438/en/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20190223150430/http://www.fao.org/forestry/news/92438/en/

    12a)
    SELECTED EXTRACTS:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/breaking-news-leading-city-councillor-responsible-for-the-tree-felling-programme-has-resigned/comment-page-1/#comment-2214

    13)
    Forestry Commission., 2018
    Urban forestry:
    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/urban-forestry

    http://web.archive.org/web/20190723185948/https://www.gov.uk/guidance/urban-forestry

    14)
    FORESTRY COMMUNICATION TOOLKIT. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (‘Last updated: Thursday, February 25, 2021’):
    http://www.fao.org/forestry/communication-toolkit/76376/en/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311122714/http://www.fao.org/forestry/communication-toolkit/76376/en/

    http://www.fao.org/forestry/91228/en/

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210311123250/http://www.fao.org/forestry/91228/en/

    15)
    ‘ENVIRONMENT BILL (PROPOSED LEGISLATION) – INTRODUCED ON 30th JANUARY 2020’:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2020/11/19/owlthorpe-fields-yorkshire-post/comment-page-1/#comment-4956

    16)
    ‘LODGE: A COMPLAINT’
    (a letter to The Star newspaper, dated 20th May 2016 – not printed):
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/the-scandal-over-sheffelds-trees-grows-with-16000-indicated-for-the-chop/#comment-2112

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