Peak District National Park joins 500 objectors to Loxley Valley 'township' plan

Officials at the Peak District National Park say they have not been properly consulted over controversial plans for a huge new housing development in a picturesque woodland valley on the outskirts of Sheffield - as they joined more than 500 people objecting to the proposals.

Work taking place last December to clear the former Hepworth site, where the new housing development is planned. Picture: Steve Ellis
Work taking place last December to clear the former Hepworth site, where the new housing development is planned. Picture: Steve Ellis

Developer Patrick Properties is seeking planning permission for a “sustainable new community” of up to 300 homes in Loxley Valley around the site of a derelict refractory works once run by a company called Hepworth, which opponents say they fear will effectively become a new township.

The Peak District National Park, which is close to the planned site, has raised concerns about the potential for increased traffic and the development undermining the quality of the local green belt. Local MPs Olivia Blake and Gill Furniss have also objected to the plan.

The Peak District National Park Authority said in its objection that “the applicant has not engaged constructively with us in preparing their outline plan”.

Its objection added: “This may be the reason that there is no real recognition of the National Park, or the potential impacts on it. The applicant’s Statement of Community Involvement document states that there has been direct engagement with the National Park Authority on this application. This isn’t the case, and gives us cause for concern.

"We have made constructive contributions at public open consultation meetings, and followed them up with requests to meet officers of the council. However the request has not been accepted.

“We consider therefore that whilst the city council has had long engagement with the applicant, no serious recognition has as yet been given to the council’s duty to the National Park under the Environment Act.”

Patrick Properties say its proposals are the only way of funding a clean-up of derelict refractory works that have stood unused since the 1990s.

But more than 550 objections have been submitted so far following a campaign by the Friends of Loxley Valley group, with concerns raised about the effect on wildlife, woodland and local traffic, as well as the potential for the site to flood.

Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss said the site would increase traffic volumes and air pollution problems in the north of the city, while taking away a public amenity from existing local residents.

“The Loxley valley is a much-used and well-loved local walking route and leisure area,” she said.

“The site is within walking distance for thousands of my constituents. Three hundred dwellings would have a huge impact on both the immediate and distant visual views of the site and wider area.

"I am also concerned about the sustainability aspects of development given the very significant flooding at this site in 2007.”

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake said last month any decision on the site should be deferred until lockdown is over.

“It’s been almost 30 years since there was significant activity in the factories, in which time the valley has become a peaceful recreational corridor,” she said.

“The site is now a popular walking route for ramblers because of its natural assets, wildlife and dense woodland. The site has been reclaimed by nature as public space and it is only right that the public should be properly consulted over its future.”

She said she was also concerned about the lack of planned amenities for the development.

“Considering Loxley has c. 770 residents, this development seeks to add almost half that number again but is proposing to create only three facilities (with a bike shed and tennis courts but no shops).”

The masterplan for the site suggests one existing building could become a “new homeworking community hub” while another could be converted into a “mixed use space with flexibility for a range of uses including a potential bike hire, GP surgery, restaurant/ cafe and workshop units”.

Andy Tickle, head of campaigns at the CPRE, said: "CPRE will be objecting strongly to plans to build a massive housing estate on the old Hepworths site in the Loxley Valley. It's simply the wrong development in the wrong place.

"Patrick Properties have now submitted an outline application for 300 houses on the old Hepworths site in the beautiful, tranquil Loxley Valley. The proposals will impact on the very high quality landscape in the valley, which is also designated as green belt, and the nearby Peak District National Park.

“Although the final design and layout of the housing is not specified, we are clear that it would be the wrong development in the wrong place. It is CPRE's view that the application site is neither needed or at all appropriate for release for housing development as it would be visually intrusive and damage the openness of the green belt.

"It would be unsustainable, remote from services and itself be isolated within a sensitive and cherished valley landscape. The local community is also making its views clear and we are working closely with the Friends of the Loxley Valley to ensure Sheffield City Council refuse permission."

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