This time last week we launched our campaign to save Smithy Wood, an ancient wood, on the outskirts of Sheffield. Under threat from plans to turn 20 acres of the wood in to a motorway service area, we asked supporters to urge the developers to think again; to understand just how rare and precious ancient woodland is.
Well I’m pleased to say the response we have had so far has been tremendous. Over 2,000 people have signed our petition and hundreds more have written directly to the developers, urging them to think again. Unfortunately a meeting on site that we had planned with the developers this week was cancelled. We’re disappointed and hoping to see this rearranged for the near future.
Local media interest has also been high – in fact the attention our campaign has been receiving was quoted by the developer as the reason why our meeting was cancelled. Questions such as ‘Why build in an ancient wood?’, ‘Why not use the neighbouring brownfield site?’, and ‘Why build the service station at all?’, have been put to me time and again. Encouragingly these are the same questions we ourselves are asking.
What has been most encouraging though are the smaller, local stories that have emerged. From a Professor who sent us the history of Smithy Wood – it used to be coppiced woodland by monks who were granted land nearby in 1161 – to local residents who braved the rain on Wednesday to share their stories of life growing up with Smithy Wood to a BBC reporter and myself, their message has been loud and clear, “Hands off Smithy Wood.”
So with the deadline for the end of the developer’s consultation growing ever closer – 16th September – we will continue to press the message home: Ancient woodland is both rare precious; if you are considering an ancient wood as a site for development, you should consider elsewhere.
Oliver Newham, Senior Campaigner: Ancient Woodland