Crunch time for college’s green belt homes scheme

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

A CONTROVERSIAL scheme for a housing estate in Sheffield’s green belt could be given the go-ahead next week.

Sheffield College has won the backing of council planners over a proposed redevelopment of its former Loxley campus – six years after guidelines were drawn up.

But councillors will be under pressure from residents and conservation groups to reject the latest application on Tuesday, although the last word would rest with the Government.

Some objectors do not want to see any homes being built in the green belt, while others are concerned about the specific location being suggested. Fears are also being raised about an increase in traffic around Malin Bridge.

The college wanted to sell the land when it moved to its new campus at Hillsborough. However, a previous scheme, in partnership with Persimmon Homes, was turned down by the council four years ago, amid widespread local opposition, because of the impact on the green belt.

Now, working on its own, the college is trying again, indicating that 71 detached and semi-detached houses could be built. It has convinced planners of the special circumstances needed to justify development in such sensitive surroundings.

Although design and other details would still have to be resolved, the officers say that in principle the development would make “a positive contribution to the area and improve the open character of the green belt”.

Not only would the derelict college buildings be removed, but the houses would occupy a smaller footprint and be built closer to existing built-up area of Wood Lane, opening up views of the valley, it is argued.

There are some officers’ concerns that 71 homes may be slightly too many but they are advising that there are no fundamental obstacles and many issues can be addressed at the detailed planning stage.

Traffic implications are not seen as a problem after an assessment of the impact on a proposed access from Wood Lane and the Malin Bridge one-way system.

But every issue is being contested by objectors. In particular, Loxley Valley Protection Society says there is not enough detail to justify giving the go-ahead. Outline permission could be granted “without having to give anyone the slightest idea of what would be built on the site. This would also create a precedent for other green belt sites within the valley and across the city.”

In addition, the society says that traffic congestion at Malin Bridge is already “legendary”.

The Council to Protect Rural England says it supports in principle the demolition of the college buildings and any new housing close to Wood Lane but it too is concerned at a lack of details to judge whether green belt rules are being met.

Before councillors give their verdict on Monday, they will take into account 110 objections. Some critics would prefer any homes to be built in the same place as the college buildings. There are five letters of support for the college.