Today I took part in the virtual Planning Inspectorate inquiry regarding Patrick Properties proposed development on the former Loxley Works in the Loxley Valley. Here is what I said as part of the inquiry:
I am here both as a Sheffield resident and as the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Hallam, to raise several points for the consideration of the Planning Inspectorate. These are:
- the strength of objective community feeling about this issue
- the appropriateness of the site for the proposed development
The proposed development is a huge source of concern for hundreds of Hallam constituents. I have had many constituents raise their concerns with me about this issue, across all stages of its proposed development.
As well as this, as you will know, there are over 900 objections to this proposal on the Council’s Planning Portal, and Sheffield City Council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously to refuse the scheme.
Constituents have raised significant and substantial planning concerns regarding the impact the development would have on the local area; including that the site being a flood plain. This has not been sufficiently mitigated. I have been sent multiple photographs, taken several years apart, of the site and surrounding area being routinely flooded. I am unconvinced that the Flood Risk Assessment shows any significant or innovative response to the flood risk and it would be unjust for potential residents for hundreds of homes to be built on a flood plain. And the plans seek only to speed the flow of water putting pressure on communities downstream like Fishlake.
Constituents have raised concerns, which I share, about the scale of the development and insufficient local infrastructure. One of the major complaints I have had since coming into this post is reliability of bus services, service cancellations, a reduction and often changes to services on the basis of viability and profitability. I am therefore unconvinced that after 5 years this service will be secured. Or that it is sufficient for the needs of the plans.
This is a green belt site, far out of the trajectory of the built city’s reach. The remoteness of the site means that new residents will be car dependent. Not only will more cars on the road have a negative environmental impact, but areas like Hillsborough and Malin Bridge—already heavily congested—will not be able to cope with the huge increase in cars this development will bring.
A significant strand of the case in support of this development is that our city needs more housing. And this is true—we do need more housing. But we need to ask, what kind of housing do we need, and where is best to situate it. A question the council has answered.
As an MP and former Deputy Leader of the Council, I know that in recent years, Sheffield City Council has done a huge amount of work to put together a local plan consultation, that includes the voices of local people, to deliver high housing targets by developing our city centre and brownfield sites throughout Sheffield, so that we can build houses where they’re needed.
Sheffield does not need 300 houses built on our precious green belt which are unaffordable to the majority of its citizens; the city has a plan to create—affordable housing in areas with local amenities, shops, and workplaces. 10% is woeful for affordable homes considering the needs of Sheffield’s Citizens, however the openness of the site must be considered given it green belt status.
We do need housing, but this requires a real and comprehensive plan to address the housing crisis, which the Council have done. But many of my constituents fail to see how this planning application would help meet the citywide objectives.
It is almost 30 years since significant activity in the factories on the site, the valley has become a peaceful recreational corridor; the site is now a popular walking route for ramblers because of its natural assets, landscape value, wildlife and dense woodland. The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced for all of us how important it is to have access to green spaces, to protect and encourage biodiversity. This site has been reclaimed by nature, blended into the landscape, as public space that my constituents feel will be put at risk. There are also heritage implications which others will cover I am sure.
As a local MP, I know that with any development it’s important to think about how it impacts the future. This week we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Peak District National Park, the first national park in our country’s history, and only a stone’s throw away from this site. The Sheffield Star have called this “one of the most pivotal planning inquiries the city has seen”, and this is because any decision made on this case will reverberate for years to come.
I ask that the Planning Inspectorate to note the important work Sheffield City Council have done to protect our green spaces in recent years, their work to prevent flooding that may be undermined by this site speeding waterflows, and the housing targets and decision makers desire to develop the city centre and brownfield sites as a priority while protecting the green belt, when assessing Patrick Properties’ proposal.