Protesters have launched a petition calling for a planned new service station to be built on brownfield land - instead of chopping down ancient woodland nearby.
Proposals for a new £40 million stop at junction 35 of the M1, north of Sheffield near Chapeltown, were unveiled to the public last month.
Developers Extra Motorway Service Area are seeking permission to build the services across 20 acres beside Smithy Wood, to the south-west of the junction.
But charity The Woodland Trust says, if the plan goes ahead, up to eight hectares of ‘irreplaceable wildlife habitat’ will be lost.
The trust argues that Smithy Wood was ‘spliced into four’ by the M1 in the 1960s, and that the area also lies in the path of the High Speed 2 rail route.
Nearby Hesley Wood is being used by firm Recycoal, which won approval in January to excavate hundreds of tonnes of coal from the land over the next five years.
Woodland Trust campaigner Oliver Newham said: “The developer already owns a brownfield site right next door, which looks like a perfect alternative for this service station.
“Smithy Wood is a prime example of where an ancient woodland, recognised locally as important for nature conservation, is being gradually chipped away and fragmented until eventually nothing will be left. The proposal even goes against Sheffield’s local plan.”
The charity says the wood is home to a large variety of birds.
Developers say the service station is needed because drivers currently travel up to 42 miles on the M1 stretch without being able to stop.
A planning application is expected to be submitted later in autumn.
The petition will be presented to EMSA before a public consultation ends on September 16. Visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/savesmithywood to sign.