Sheffield City Council’s Licencing Committee met today to consider a village green application made by Cowley Residents Action Group. Unfortunately the decision has been made to defer the case and refer it to an independent barrister.
Supported by the Woodland Trust, the village green application covers an area of Smithy Wood, an ancient wood, near Chapeltown in North Sheffield. If granted, village green status would guarantee local people access to the woodland, and increase its level of protection against future development threats. To achieve this local residents have to prove that they have been using the wood for at least 20 years for recreational pastimes and activities.
This method has worked before – approximately 30 acres of ancient woodland was saved from development at Coombe Wood in Thundersley, South East Essex, after local residents applied for the area to be designated as a village green.
Local surveys have shown Smithy Wood is a haven for a variety of ancient woodland plants, fungi, and birds including the red listed song thrush and marsh tit. At least four species of bat (pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared and Myotis species) and important butterfly species such as the dingy skipper call Smithy Wood their home.
Oliver Newham, Senior Campaigner at the Woodland Trust said: “It is a disappointment that the Village Green Licencing Committee succumbed under the pressure of hot shot lawyers working for big business with big pockets, not to hear the case today. Many local people gave up their time today to give evidence for something they truly care for and have a connection with. Sadly their voice was not heard due to a last minute delaying tactic that will now see the case referred to an independent QC who will hear evidence and make a recommendation.”
“We will continue to support the local community group in their bid for village status for Smithy Wood, a deserved status giving the history of local use at the site. We fear this is a tactic, being used so that the village green status cannot be granted prior to the full planning application hearing. The fight for this ancient wood will continue.”