Village focus: Bolsterstone – tightening the green belt

Bolsterstone
Bolsterstone
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It is an intensely local dispute yet one that resonates right across rural Yorkshire: where does the green belt begin and how long can it survive as the border between one community and another.

For the residents of Bolsterstone, a village just eight miles north west of Sheffield but right on the border of the Peak District National Park, a proposal to build 93 homes on what was once grazing land is the thin end of the wedge.

“There are other fields next to this one, and if planning permission is granted for one it will escalate into a new village,” said Keith Davis, who sits on the councils of Sheffield and Stocksbridge, in whose parish Bolsterstone sits.

“The remoteness of the villages makes most people believe that they don’t get a fair crack of the whip from Sheffield council and I tend to agree,” Coun Davis said.

The issue in the village – one which campaigners say has been exacerbated by the failure to meet a deadline for deciding whether to approve the planning application or not – concerns land which separates it from the neighbouring and larger village of Deepcar.

A former brickworks there is already the site of a development of more than 400 homes, whose construction caused a summer-long road closure which turned Bolsterstone into what Coun Davis described as a “rat run”.

“If the border went, Bolsterstone would be swallowed,” he said. “I dare say it would keep its name but it would completely lose its identity.”

Livestock farming is still the dominant industry on the hills around the village, although Bolsterstone itself – one of the last remaining hillside communities in the district and as such a honeypot for long-distance walkers – is popular with retirees. Originally an Anglo-Saxon settlement on the old salt road from Cheshire to Yorkshire, it retains a pub but its shops and both its schools have long gone. The National School, built in the mid-19th century, is now the village hall, home to an active community group.

But as its members turn their thoughts towards wreath making and other winter pursuits – more than 100 had turned up last year, said the secretary, Tony Peers – no-one doubts that it is the new houses which set the agenda.

John Hesketh, a former planning committee head who chairs the Upper Don Action Group, which campaigns to protect Sheffield’s remaining countryside, says farmland in such areas should be a last resort, not the first recourse of councils in search of housebuilding land. It would, he said, he hard not to see the field currently at issue, on the other side of the lane from the green belt, as countryside.

Coun Davis said: “It’s another nail in the green space that we treasure so dearly.”

• Despite its modest size of only around 300 homes, Bolsterstone boasts a male chorus of international repute. Once known as England’s largest village choir, it twice won the Langollen International Eisteddfod.

The village takes its name from the two large stones which once stood on the green but were moved to the churchyard during the 19th century. Opinion is divided on whether they supported religious crosses or the gallows.

The village once boasted a manor house where, some say, the character of Robin Hood originated. The surviving Porter’s Lodge and Castle Cottages contain remnants.