I joined nearly 100 locals to protest against a new motorway service area at Smithy Wood, Sheffield.
Smithy Wood is situated off the M1 near Chapeltown, and is at risk of being destroyed after a planning application was submitted by Extra MSA. It would see 8.6ha (more than 20 acres) of ancient woodland demolished, despite its age being estimated at 850 years.
Ancient woodland’s undisturbed soils and ecosystems form the UK’s richest land habitat, and Smithy Wood in particular is vital to certain wildlife such as the red listed song thrush and amber listed Bullfinch. Smithy’s conservation importance is clear, but does this explain why so many locals (including one enthusiastic toddler and two boisterous Scottie dogs) came to our protest on such an overcast and blustery day?
Walking through the woods on the 17th April with all these supporters offered me a chance to find out about the personal connections that individuals have with Smithy Wood. Many felt an intense connection to the site having played there when they were young, and memories of camping with the Scouts go back over 60 years. The wood is still used today by dog walkers, and several people visit the site with their children and grandchildren. Even those who had not been to the area recently had a wonderful reaction to the woodland around them – especially the brilliant carpet of bluebells that had come into bloom.
It is this connection to Smithy Wood which has also sparked anger and disbelief in some, as they realised that much of the publically accessible woodland promised by the development company if the plans were to go ahead already exists – and would anyway not compensate at all for the loss of Smithy.
That’s why, as well as objecting against the motorway service station, we are also supporting an application for Smithy Wood’s ‘Village Green’ status. This would protect the wood for the foreseeable future, and give the general public many more years of woodland benefits and enjoyment.
As we wait for the outcome of the Village Green status application, it’s important that as many people as possible formally object to the planning application before the consultation deadline on May 16th – so please add your name to our petition and then submit your objection on our Smithy Wood campaign page.
Hollie Anderson, Assistant PR Officer