New bid to clean up old aerodrome
A FRESH attempt is set to be made to clean up the green belt site of the former Norton Aerodrome with a view to part of it being allocated for housing.
The council is preparing to buy the land itself so that it can press ahead with decontamination and removal of the “eyesore” of derelict hangars and hardstandings.
Then it would look for a deal with a housing developer - but only for a “limited” number of homes because of the sensitive location.
Previous proposals by the former Government regeneration agency English Partnerships envisaged around 300 homes. Now the thinking is 60 to 70.
Most of the site would be maintained along the lines of a country park in keeping with the green belt designation.
The future of the old aerodrome - a former RAF balloon barrage station during World War Two - has been in the air for years.
At one time, it was earmarked for a hospital. More recently, it was seen as a potential location for a park and ride and, last year, an application for a green waste composting centre was rejected amid widespread concerns among nearby residents about traffic, noise and health risks from spores.
Meanwhile, the council has been under community pressure to stop motorbiking and other disruptive behaviour by youths on the land.
The site is currently owned by the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency, which succeeded English Partnerships. Councillors are looking to acquire it themselves using Government grants, which would be repaid once a housing deal has been done. In particular, it wants to speed up the process of improving the environment, making it safer and removing uncertainty over its future.
The green belt status means that potential uses are limited, but both the council and local MP Clive Betts believe there is broad community support for an approach that allows some development in return for the environmental and recreational benefits.
A council report says: “Earlier consultations indicate that the local community may support a limited amount of housing development on the site as it would remove the eyesore of existing derelict buildings, but subject to a significant proportion of the site being retained and improved as recreational green space.”
There is “a potential opportunity to provide some family housing and some affordable homes on brownfield land in a reasonably sustainable location”.
The report to councillors adds: “Allowing some housing development on the Norton Aerodrome would help improve the choice of housing sites in a part of the city where there are relatively few other sites.”
At present, it is known that there are a number of contamination hotspots because of its former use as fuel dumps, and work is being done to determine the extent.
“If the property is not purchased now, then the HCA may sell the site on the open market, potentially leading to continued blight and anti-social behaviour on the site. It would also make it more difficult for the council to achieve its planning objectives and maximise benefits for the local community.”
The price is due to be set by in dependant valuation.
Councillors are expected to approve next Wednesday the negotiation of the freehold acquisition “with the aim of delivering comprehensive restoration”.
Eventually, the authority will consult the community on a ‘masterplan’ before deciding the details of any development and the use of the rest of the 18.7 hectares.
Mr Betts, MP for South East Sheffield, welcomed the prospect of council action that could lead to a limited amount of housebuilding, using the capital receipt to improve the other land, removing the dereliction.
“When the market is right, the council can look at an environmentally friendly scheme.”
There was “overwhelming support” about six years ago when a similiar approach was suggested, said Mr Betts.
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