Public inquiry starts to save Smithy Wood from being bulldozed
A public inquiry has started into the future of an ancient woodland earmarked for development.
Smithy Wood, near Chapeltown, South Yorkshire, is the site of a proposed £40m service station near the M1.
Developers said the site, near junction 35, was the best location and would create about 300 jobs in the area.
But campaigners said the 850-year-old wood should be protected and want village green status to prevent building work.
The inquiry is being heard by a council-appointed inspector at Sheffield Town Hall and is expected to run for four days ending on 24 April.
The Commons Act 2006 allows applications for an area to be given village green status if local residents have "indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years".
Cowley Residents Action Group (CRAG) and The Woodland Trust appealed last year for evidence of locals using the site.
Oliver Newham, a senior Woodland Trust campaigner, said: "We're not against a motorway service area, that's not the issue.
"But motorway service areas don't need to be built in the middle of ancient woods, and what we're saying is that the community have used this wood for generations and it needs protecting.
"The history of Smithy Wood goes back to 1161."
Extra Motorway Service Area Group said there was "a clear need" for the station to fill a gap in service provision.
According to the consultation website the services would include a food court building, a hotel and a petrol station.
It adds that current guidance indicates that for safety, drivers should have the opportunity to stop on a motorway journey every 30 minutes or 12 to 28 miles (19 to 45km), depending on traffic conditions.
But drivers coming to the M1 in South Yorkshire from the M18 are having to travel 42 miles (67km).