Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Protest held over M1 service station proposal for Smithy Wood

Smithy Wood protest, Sheffield (March 2017)
Image caption Protesters met outside Sheffield town hall

A demonstration has taken place over plans to build a motorway service station on ancient woodland in South Yorkshire.

The £45m development is proposed for Smithy Wood, by M1 junction 35 between Thorpe Hesley and Chapeltown.

About 150 people took part in the protest outside Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday.

Developers Extra say there is "a clear need" to fill a gap in service provision in the area.

Smithy Wood dates to the 1160s. Protest organisers the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust fear about half of it would be lost if the services were built.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The Smithy Wood site, south-west of M1 Junction 35, is predominantly ancient woodland

Liz Ballard, from the Trust, said: "It's a huge development, at least six times the size of a normal motorway service station area.

"Smithy Wood is ancient woodland, a fantastic wildlife asset in greenbelt land, well-used and much-loved."

Extra Motorway Service Area Group said the development would create 300 permanent jobs.

It pledged to create Chapeltown Community Woodlands and link to other Sheffield trails, to be managed over 50 years with income from the services.

Image copyright Extra MSA
Image caption Extra said building the food court, hotel and petrol station would create 400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs

"The large majority of Smithy Wood will not be lost to development. Instead it will be heavily invested as part a woodland management plan, protecting it for decades to come."

The Wildlife Trust said the development would "permanently destroy irreplaceable ancient woodland and diminish the green belt" and added that government guidance says "ancient woodlands cannot be compensated for by new tree planting or woodland management elsewhere".

Thousands of people objected to the initial services plans, and a public inquiry to register the woodland as a village green was held in April 2015.

Highways Agency guidance states motorway drivers should be able to stop every 30 minutes, or every 12-28 miles (19-45km), depending on traffic conditions.

Currently drivers coming to the M1 from the M18 in South Yorkshire travel 42 miles (67km) between services.

Image caption The Wildlife Trust said: "If the need [for services] is proven, there are potentially other sites."

Extra said: "We want to encourage healthier lifestyles by making this substantial long-term investment in the surrounding green spaces.

"Motorway service areas play an important role in improving road safety and driver welfare.

"Gaps on this section of motorway can be addressed with a single new facility."

Extra said it had considered other locations but only M1 Junction 35 could "safely accommodate" the services.

On Friday, Sheffield Council announced a decision about the scheme would be postponed until mid-April.

Last week a separate application for services at Junction 33 was submitted to Rotherham Borough Council.

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