Promise to protect rare wild species

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RARE wildlife on a former opencast mining site earmarked for a major leisure development will be protected, council officials have pledged.

Rotherham Council is looking for an alternative company to create a leisure complex at the former Pit House West site, between the A57 and Rother Valley Country Park, near Aston, between Sheffield and Rotherham.

It has terminated the agreement it made with Oak Holdings, which was planning to build the £350m YES! Project at the site, including a host of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, plus a hotel and spa and new home for the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team, due to lack of progress with the scheme – granted outline planning permission three years ago.

But there has been concern that building on the site, which was landscaped when restored after opencasting, will affect the wildlife that has since colonised it.

Local residents who use the land, open for public access, are also unhappy about its loss.

Creatures seen at the site include species of rare birds such as the bittern, firecrest, Cetti’s warbler, bearded tit, whimbrel, buzzard and green woodpecker, plus thrushes and goldcrest.

A Rotherham Council spokeswoman said: “The ecology of the area was a material consideration during the planning process and was fully considered by members, as was the Environmental Impact Assessment, when the outline planning application was renewed last year.

“The outline permission includes 59 conditions. Thirteen relate specifically to the flora and fauna while four relate specifically to the ecology of the site, including the monitoring and enhancement of habitats and the control of impacts on the species.

“One of the conditions of the application was prior to the start of any scheme further up-to-date wildlife surveys would be carried out and a wildlife management strategy be implemented.”