First Person: No reason to spoil our rural appeal

Last month, Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, signalled a move to find extra house-building land. His white paper '˜Fixing Our Broken Housing Market' stressed the need to build in '˜the right places'.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:43 am
A site off Hollin Busk Lane and Carr Road, near Royd Farm between Stocksbridge, Deepcar and Bolsterstone, where Hallam Land Management wants to build 93 homes. Photo: John Hesketh

Most planning experts saw Sajid Javid’s announcement as a damp squib, scarcely the billed ‘radical vision’. Days later, the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, chipped in that ‘there was no silver bullet’ to deliver additional building land. All vague, but through this ministerial fog it seems the Government is handing awkward planning decisions to local councils. So, how will this pan out in Sheffield, where I was planning committee chairman for many years?

As most Sheffield Telegraph readers know, there’s a gulf between the impression some have of our city and the true picture. Sheffield is still an industrial and manufacturing centre and, of course, it’s a city. But despite its usual image, it is probably the most rural city in the UK.

All this beauty comes at a price, however. We have lots of unspoilt upland, countryside, Green Belt, farms, moorland, valleys, trees and rocky gorges all within the city boundary.

Just as Sajid Javid launched his report, residents of Bolsterstone and Deepcar learned of plans to create a new, 93+ house ‘village’ on farmland off Hollin Busk Lane and Carr Road – literally green field land, next to Royd Farm. On the other side of Hollin Busk Lane is Green Belt. Up the road is the Peak District. It’s hard not to view this site as countryside.

A planning application is imminent and local residents are up in arms. They fear this large development will be given the go-ahead. We’ll shortly have a test case of how our city deals with the minister’s urge to find new building land in ‘the right place’.

I now work with the Upper Don Action Group, a band of unpaid enthusiasts. I know UDAG will be backing local residents in Bolsterstone and Deepcar who think farmland in some of England’s finest countryside should be a last resort, not the first port of call, to find extra house-building land. This is not ‘the right place’ and surely the city has enough brownfield sites.

Sheffield’s rural character might be a secret, but that’s no reason to spoil it.