Doncaster Council accused of hypocrisy after selling 'rewilded' former farmer's field beside woodland to housing developers

Doncaster Council has been criticised for ‘making a mockery’ of its environmental agenda as residents say the authority is pushing through the sale of open green space to a housing developer.
Residents of the Rose Hill estate in the field, which borders both Doncaster Racecourse and Sandall Beat WoodsResidents of the Rose Hill estate in the field, which borders both Doncaster Racecourse and Sandall Beat Woods
Residents of the Rose Hill estate in the field, which borders both Doncaster Racecourse and Sandall Beat Woods

A council-owned greenfield site next to Doncaster Racecourse off Rose Hill Rise in Bessacarr looks set to be sold to Miller Homes. Campaigner’s say this is contrary to the council’s own climate commission report and environment strategy policies.

The site was once arable farmland but has since been left fallow and has 'rewilded' with new tree growth thanks to its proximity to the edge of Sandall Beat Woods. A footpath through the field provides access to the woodland.

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Residents have formed the Rose Hill Residents Association (RHRA), an action group, winning cross-party support from the ward’s Conservative councillors, Nick Allen and Laura Bluff as well as support from Doncaster’s Liberal Democrats and Green parties.

Concerned resident Wendy Wright said there were many traffic concerns with just two access points to the planned 166 homes and added that there could be ‘three to four years of noise and disruption’.

She added that the housing site will make it ‘Doncaster’s biggest cul-de-sac’ and increase rush hour traffic on Bawtry Road.

But in answer to a previous question submitted by Coun Allen, Mayor Jones said the site had been through rigorous appraisal as part of the Local Plan and the government inspector who signed it off said that the area had already been earmarked previously for housing.

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Richard Farthing, another resident who lives close to the green space, said: “If the council fails to protect Rose Hill with all its trees, it makes a mockery of the mayor’s pledge to plant a million.

“The council talks about wanting to increase the number of trees, increase biodiversity and preserve green spaces for local communities but their plans for Rose Hill - which they have admitted will result in wildlife habitat loss - suggest that they are not taking the action they tell everyone is necessary.”

Campaigners say the site is a rewilded agricultural area with mature trees and wildflowers that support insects, birds and small mammals, and which forms part of a wildlife corridor.

Green Party activist, Tony Nicholson, a member of the Doncaster Climate Commission said: “We cannot afford to lose this valuable rewilded area.

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“The council plans to build 60 per cent more houses than identified under Government guidelines, leading to eight sites across Doncaster being removed from protected green belt and the loss of greenfield sites across the borough.”

Dan Swaine, director of economy and environment, said: “The Doncaster Local Plan has been through a robust and comprehensive process over a seven-year period to reach the milestone of now being ready to adopt, including being examined in public by a government-appointed inspector and been found to be ‘sound’ and ‘legally compliant’.

“The Rose Hill site is an existing development opportunity that has been identified for development since 1998 via the Unitary Development Plan.

“Objectors had further opportunity to engage in the Local Plan process when the council published the draft Plan in August 2019.

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“Objections to some of the housing sites in the plan, including Rose Hill, were made and discussed in front of the government-appointed planning inspector. The Inspector was fully aware of local opposition to the Rose Hill site being re-allocated for housing when he considered the soundness of the plan.”