Is our Green belt under threat?

16 10 2013

In July 2012, the Council published its Development Sites and Places Draft Consultation document.  This forms part of the set of strategic development plans for the borough, the Local Development Framework, which will replace the existing unitary development plan. ‘Sites and Places’ considers the potential future uses of land and contains guidelines for making decisions on planning applications.  Of particular interest to us was the 51 ha parcel of green belt land lies north of Hermit Lane, Gawber down to Barugh Green Road.  It has been identified as ‘potential employment land – options from which the final allocation will be chosen. According to the planners, the size of this site will mean that ‘substantial road infrastructure improvements’ will be necessary if it is finally selected.

In January, 2013, the Department for Transport announced £113M funding  for major transport schemes in the Sheffield City Region. (Barnsley is part of this region). This money is reserved for infrastructure projects across the region over a ten year period starting in April, 2015.  The body set up to oversee this investment is the Sheffield City Region Local Transport Body (LTB) which is chaired by Barnsley Council’s Sir Steve Houghton.

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 8th August, 2013, Barnsley Council submitted three infrastructure projects for inclusion in the investment programme.  One of these is Goldthorpe, another is near Grimethorpe and the third is the construction of a new link road connecting the M1 at Dodworth (junction 37) to  Claycliffe (A635).  Barnsley Chronicle reported that this latter project would: “reduce traffic congestion along Higham Common Lane and open up land for businesses and as many as 800 new homes.”  Presumably, this link road forms the substantial infrastructure improvement mentioned in Development Sites and Places.

The prioritised list of infrastructure projects was agreed at the LTB meeting on 26th July, 2013.  The Dodworth/Claycliffe link road was ranked at number 7 in the list of 17 projects.

This week, the Barnsley Chronicle carried a front page story ‘Green belt sites identified for housing’ (18 October, 2013). This reported that a new part of the evidence base for the Local Development Framework, the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), is open for consultation until 1st November, 2013.  The SHLAA identifies hundreds of sites around the borough had been deemed suitable for housing.  These sites have capacity for 40,000 homes but Coun Miller stressed, in the Chronicle article, that ‘the council only intends to build about 20,000 properties over 15 years.”  So, not all of these sites will be included in the Local Plan (the new name for the Local Development Framework).  This is also made clear on the SHLAA page on the council’s website:

“It is important to understand that the SHLAA does not represent a statement of council policy and does not have a bearing on the determination of planning applications. It should be emphasised that the purpose of the SHLAA is not to allocate sites, and this will be done in the Local Plan.”

First sightings of engineering activity on the Dodworth/Claycliffe link road?

Several residents in the Wharfedale Road area have noticed surveying and drilling in the fields at the back of the estate.  One resident has informed us that the drilling was performed on behalf of Strata Homes Yorkshire Ltd.   According to John England, Strata’s Strategic Land Director, they are examining the potential for building houses and commercial properties on the fields behind Wharfedale Road.  The reason for the drilling was to check the accuracy of  some NCB geological reports dealing with the depth of disturbance resulting from open-cast mining. Mr England stressed that this work preliminary and nothing is likely to come of it before 2016.  Of course, there will be public consultation if, or when, firmer proposals materialise.

A spokesman for the council confirmed (25 October, 2014) that this private-sector activity has  “not been commissioned by the Council.  I understand that the site investigation works are being undertaken by developer(s) who may wish to progress development in the area, sometime in the future.”

A second council spokesman added (23 October, 2014) : “Any preparatory works that are currently being carried out will be the responsibility of the landowner. However, because [the site does not] have planning permission at this stage, this work is restricted to preparatory site investigation works.”

The local councillors for the Dodworth ward (this area is part of that electoral ward), Jack Carr, Phillip Birkinshaw and Brian Perrin, have also been contacted. Cllr Carr promtly replied on their behalf.  He said they were aware of long-standing plans to build a road from the M1 at Dodworth down to Barugh Green.  This road would relieve Higham and Barugh Green of a lot of commercial traffic and would be beneficial for those communities.  However, any plans for new homes was news to him.

We received first sight that our green belt is being evaluated for housing in the SHLAA.  In Report Summary 5 and Map 5 (available here), site 215 contains all the green belt land east of the M1 bordering Pogmoor, Gawber and Higham and Barugh Green.  It is considered to be a ‘major site.’ It was evaluated as a category 2 site, suitable for development after the first 5 years of the Local Plan.  Category 2 sites have specific measure to overcome which prevent them being actioned in the first 5 years of the Plan.  The main constraints on the suitability of this site are:

  • It is within 200 metres of an Air Quality Management Area
  • ‘some constraints identified by Highways’.  Could this refer to the substantial infrastructure improvement mentioned in Development Sites and Places which will be probably be resolved the LTB priority number 7 road project?
  • Some treatment of the ground needs to be attended to.
  • But the site  ‘is a location likely to highly attractive to the [executive housing] market.”

What are your views and suggestions?