Green waste plans anger

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WIDESPREAD protests, including two petitions, have been lodged in response to plans to use part of the old Norton Aerodrome for the recycling of green waste.

WIDESPREAD protests, including two petitions, have been lodged in response to plans to use part of the old Norton Aerodrome for the recycling of green waste.

Residents are putting pressure on the council to refuse permission for an initiative that would see grass cuttings, hedge trimmings and other garden waste turned into compost in an old hangar and tree thinnings turned into woodchips in an outside area off Norton Avenue.

Local environmental social enterprise Green Estate insists that the ‘small scale’ operations would be controlled and safe - and says it already runs four sites in Sheffield without problems.

“We fervently believe Sheffield should be recycling green waste and we have a great opportunity here,” chief executive Sue France said this week.

Despite trying to allay fears at public meetings and by distributing fact sheets, the organisation has yet to convince many nearby residents that the green belt location is suitable for the Lightwood Biofarm project.

Two petitions, one with 150 names, another with 35, have been submitted, and 60 other representations have been made.

One of the petitions says the former RAF aerodrome has been largely unused for 50 years “and has been taken over by nature and includes protected species”.

It adds: “Recycling is an industrial process and will involve large numbers of heavy lorries going to and from the site. The process itself will involve noisy shredding machines, conveyor belts and dumper trucks – quite inappropriate for an area next to housing.”

Concerns are being raised about traffic, smell and the proximity to a nursing home and school and it is feared that vandals could set fire to the wood.

One nearby resident says: “This is the home to a lot of wildlife. It is such a lovely place at the moment.

“Even though it is close to an estate and a busy road, it feels like you are miles away from it all. The RAF aerodrome is a part of history and should not be destroyed.”

Another critic asks: “Surely there must be a more appropriate site in a city the size of Sheffield than in an area of dense population and on a major ring road?”

Some support has been received by the council, which is continuing to receive comments.

One person, who lives in the city centre, says the development “would help Sheffield to become more self-sufficient in processing and reusing its own waste” and “stop the current decline and dereliction of the site”.

Once designated for a hospital, the land has been earmarked at different times for housing, a hotel, offices and, most recently, a park and ride.

However, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive is now telling the council that, after traffic modelling exercises, the old aerodrome is no longer a “preferred option”.

The green belt has precluded any attempts at large-scale housing development but a small number of homes built to the highest environmental standards on part of the site, which is owned by the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency, could find favour and help meet clean-up costs.

There is a belief that some sort of development will be allowed – and Green Estate believes its proposals offer an appropriate response and will halt much of Sheffield’s green waste being transported out of the city for treatment and disposal.

It has longer-term plans to turn much of the remaining land into a nature reserve, possibly with education and discovery centres.

The enterprise says there would only be 15 vehicles a day using the biofarm and denies that smell would be a problem.

Not only will it have to convince the council that planning permission should be granted, but it will also need a licence from the Government’s Environment Agency, it points out in response to safety fears.

“There are no known risks to human health in the treatment and management of clean green waste compost in a regulated site,” it says.

Council officers are assessing all the implications and no date has been set for a verdict by councillors.