New homes are planned on what is rumoured to be the site of a historic Roman Ridge in Sheffield – six years after campaigners defeated a similar application.
Investates Limited has applied to build 22 homes on open space off Sandstone Road in Wincobank.
The developer claims the scheme would smarten up what it describes as an overgrown 2.2 acre plot plagued by fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour, while providing much-needed new homes.
But opponents insist the land should be protected as they believe it lies on the route of the Roman Ridge, an ancient landmark which once stretched for 27km from Lady’s Bridge to Mexbrough and and is now thought to have been built as a defensive barrier by a Celtic tribe called the Brigantes, who pre-dated the Romans.
They also feel it will destroy views from Wincobank’s iron age hill fort, a scheduled monument overlooking the area.
Investates argues that fresh evidence has emerged since a previous application was rejected by councillors in 2012, and upheld on appeal the following year, showing that the land in question is not in fact on the Roman Ridge.
It also claims that its plans would enhance rather than detract from the setting of the hill fort, by sprucing up the approach to the site of the fort and providing opportunities for schoolchildren to learn about its history.
That has not stopped more than 700 people signing a petition, which was only launched this week, calling for the plans to be rejected.
The petition’s founder Bridget Ingle said: “As a Celtic defensive frontier against both the early Roman invaders and the later Saxons, the Roman Ridge has the same historic value as Hadrian's Wall and Offa’s Dyke. It is a monument of local and national significance.
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“The remaining sections are either destroyed, scheduled or under council protection, and this land should be protected too.
“We ask our elected representatives on the council’s planning committee to ensure this well-used section of land, which sits just below the hill fort and is already designated as open space, is left fully accessible for further archaeological investigation and for the benefit, education and enlightenment of future generations.”
Investates’ agent Sharon Wright claimed new evidence shows the natural sandstone ridge, which the Roman Ridge is believed to follow, actually runs to the south of the site in question – beneath existing buildings on the north side of Beacon Road.
She said experts from South Yorkshire Archaeological Service, ARCUS, Archaeological Research Services Ltd and ArcHeritage all now agree there is no evidence of the Roman Ridge running through the proposed development site.
She added that Historic England had declared itself ‘broadly content' with the latest proposals, subject to some issues which it highlighted being addressed.
“What’s now planned is not a housing estate, but a collection of environmentally friendly houses where the access to open space would be hugely beneficial to the mental health of those living there,” she said.
“It’s now clear it’s not on the path of the Roman Ridge and we believe this will enhance the setting of the hill fort by cleaning up an area which is currently covered in dog excrement and has become an arena for fly-tipping.
“If this project gets the go-ahead and the land is cleaned up, it could be added to the curriculum for local schoolchildren to visit and learn about the area’s history.”
Penny Rea, of the Friends of Wincobank Hill, is not convinced. Having fought plans to build on the site in 2012, she is gearing up for another battle.
“The Roman Ridge has been there since before the Romans. It’s an important landmark which has never been fully investigated, and this is the only section left in Sheffield,” she said.
“Just because there’s a patch where you can’t quite see what went on or it's been disturbed by mining or whatever, that doesn’t mean it’s any less important, and we need to oppose plans to build on that land.”
You can see the planning application here.
You can view the petition here.