CAMPAIGNERS ARE pressing for part of a centuries-old forest to be afforded protection from a controversial development following the re-discovery of a piece of literature which links it to the legend of Robin Hood.
Fresh proposals to erect two wind turbines near to Barnsdale woods, north-west of Doncaster, have attracted widespread criticism from residents of the three nearby villages of Norton, Campsall and Sutton, who fear it will create a blot on the historic landscape immortalised in tales of the world’s most famous outlaw.
Origin Energy, which first submitted an application to build wind turbines in Norton two years ago, is also proposing to clear a corner of the woods to make way for vehicles during its construction.
Barnsdale and surrounding areas have long been credited as being the stomping grounds of Robin and his merry men, but the under-threat land is not recognised as ‘ancient’, defined by Natural England as continuously wooded since 1600AD, leaving it more vulnerable to development.
History enthusiast Ron Firth, of Campsall, hopes that his research into the 16th-century Book of Pontefract, which references the area, will secure its protection.
“I have always been aware of the association with Robin Hood in this area,” he said.
“It was, however, only when I re-read Henry Farrar’s The Book of Pontefract that I came across a page where he quotes the Tudor antiquarian Leland oin 1550 as saying ‘I saw the wodd and famose Forrest of Barnsdale, where they say that Robyn Hudde liveyd,’. This passage surely qualifies the woods as ancient woodland to be recognised, protected and preserved.”
While official status as ancient woodland does not automatically prevent local authority’s from approving developments on or close to sites, the National Planning Policy Framework says committees should give extra consideration on their impact on such historic habitats.
National charity the Woodland Trust has now stepped in over the £6million proposal, which offers local residents the chance to profit from the power generated by buying a £1 share in the project.
Trust spokeswoman Katharine Rist said: “We will be advising Doncaster Council to seek further information from the applicant regarding the antiquity of Barnsdale Wood and White Leys plantation. No decision should be made on the application until all the facts have been established.”
Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport and National Air Traffic Service have also raised objections to the proposals, which could cause problems with its navigation systems. The council said it is working with the airport and aviation authorities to address concerns regarding the airport and the local authority’s tree officer is in talks with Origin over access to the site. No date for a decision on the application has been set.