Sheffield campaigners were left devastated last week after losing a two-year battle to protect one of Sheffield’s green spaces.
Though plans to build on Owlthorpe Fields were initially blocked, an appeal was granted and on Tuesday 2 March, a planning inspector gave Avant Homes permission to build 85 houses.
Owlthorpe Fields Action Group, a group of residents and campaigners who oppose the development, said they were “heartbroken” by the decision.
“We consider it to be an absolute travesty that at a time of crisis in biodiversity and climate change, of pandemic and a mental-health crisis, the decision makers continue to take decisions to build on tree-abundant, green and biodiverse areas such as Owlthorpe Fields,” they said.
The land is a greenfield site that has grown wild over many decades, becoming a sanctuary for residents and home to various wildlife.
The battle for Owlthorpe Fields began in 2018 when Avant Homes submitted their planning application to Sheffield City Council.
Owlthorpe Action Group started campaigning and in June 2020, the plans for the development were blocked by a planning committee.
When Avant Homes submitted an appeal, the decision was given to a planning inspector who heard evidence from both sides of the dispute.
After gathering money through crowdfunding, the Owlthorpe Fields Action Group hired a barrister to present their case – but odds became stacked against them when the lawyer fell ill and was unable to represent them at the hearing.
Summing up the ruling, the action group said: “The fight for Owlthorpe Fields tells a story of a broken UK planning system, of lip service paid to democracy, of the power wielded by wealthy developers and their disdain for local communities, and of the destruction of the flora and fauna we depend upon.”
Douglas Johnson, the Green Party councillor for City Ward, gave evidence at the appeal and said he was disappointed by the decision but pleased to see campaigners fighting for Sheffield’s green spaces.
“What was positive was how so many of the residents came together and stood up to say how much they appreciated the green spaces on their doorstep. It was something that seemed to bind the community,” he said.
While the ruling means construction will take place on one section of Owlthorpe Fields, there are two other areas of land – the future of which is yet to be decided.
Owlthorpe Action Group vowed to continue their campaign and protect the remaining space, saying: “We will continue our efforts going forward – we’ll be back.”
Avant Homes were approached for comment but did not respond.