Council promises zero-tolerance approach to green belt development in Sheffield

Green belt land in Stannington.
Green belt land in Stannington.

Developers who try to encroach on to Sheffield’s green belt will not be tolerated, according to the city council’s planning department.

The message comes after councillors swiftly dismissed an attempt to gain retrospective approval for a house put up without planning permission.

The unlawful building at White Acres Farm.

The unlawful building at White Acres Farm.

Joanne Storey had tried to convince the council that the bungalow at White Acres Farm in Stannington was a legal conversion of an open-fronted barn building, and one that had been in place for more than four years.

But planning officers said changes had been made to the building since 2012, meaning the development was unlawful. And councillors were not convinced by the argument either, voting to refuse planning permission and to allow enforcement action - meaning the building will have to be returned to its original state.

Coun Peter Price called it a ‘blatant attempt to push through our planning law regarding the green belt’.

And speaking this week, the council’s interim head of planning Flo Churchill said regulations regarding this kind of development were indisputable.

Oughtibridge Mill.

Oughtibridge Mill.

“In this particular instance it’s clear cut, because the applicants didn’t put forward any cases of special circumstances to support the development,” she said. “National policy says developments such as this are by definition inappropriate and cause harm.”

Sheffield’s green belt was the first in the country to be established, in 1938.

The burden is on anyone who wants to build in that green belt - which stretches into the city along green corridors, as well as surrounding it - to show that the benefits of the development outweigh any harm it would cause.

The green belt was an issue in another recent application, this time to build 320 homes on the site of Oughtibridge Mill. But while the land the former paper mill was built on is within the green belt, the site itself is brownfield.

Councillors approved the application from Commercial Estates Group despite objections from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, or CPRE.

Similar considerations governed the decision to redevelop the Dyson Refractories site in Stannington.

Mrs Churchill said: “There are different rules that apply when you get previously-developed land in the green belt.

“You can rebuild to a certain extent. But it’s all about scale and impact.

“Once you have got a building in the green belt the impact has already happened.

“So it’s about ensuring any premises are appropriate and don’t have an adverse impact.”

Andrew Wood, of the CPRE, said: “In Sheffield, and the west in particular, the green belt is a really important planning tool to maintain the distinction between the urban area and the open landscape that stretches out into the Peak District.

"The CPRE has worked hard to protect that and we are pleased to see the council upholding it in relation to the farm.

"But it's slightly ironic that the council did recently give permission for a new hamlet at the Dyson Refractories site. We are looking for consistency.

"The aim of the green belt is to prevent the encroachment of urban areas into the countryside and there are only certain types of development that are considered to be appropriate."

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