Help prevent a biodiversity catastrophe on Owlthorpe Fields

by Owlthorpe Fields Action Group

Help prevent a biodiversity catastrophe on Owlthorpe Fields

by Owlthorpe Fields Action Group
Owlthorpe Fields Action Group
Case Owner
We are a community led group campaigning to save Owlthorpe Fields, in Sheffield, from development. The area is a re-wilded wildlife haven on greenfield land much cherished by the local community.
Funded
on 16th March 2021
£11,360
pledged of £50,000 stretch target from 377 pledges
Owlthorpe Fields Action Group
Case Owner
We are a community led group campaigning to save Owlthorpe Fields, in Sheffield, from development. The area is a re-wilded wildlife haven on greenfield land much cherished by the local community.

Latest: March 27, 2021

PRE-ACTION LETTER SENT AFTER POSITIVE LEGAL ADVICE

Things are moving swiftly on.  Thank you everyone for your pledges so far.  We have now instructed solicitors and an experienced and well-regarded planning barrister. The funds we have rais…

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Help us take legal action to protect the re-wilded wildlife haven of Owlthorpe Fields from development

Owlthorpe Fields Action Group are a community led group who have been campaigning for over 2 years to save a wildlife haven in Sheffield from housing development.  Owlthorpe Fields are much beloved by the local community and we are aiming to preserve this re-wilded area rich in biodiversity for the benefit of the environment, the climate, our physical and mental health and for future generations.  

Owlthorpe Fields is currently owned by Sheffield City Council and comprises over 7 hectares. For sale purposes the Council split it into three areas, identified as Sites C, D and E. The current application is for building on Site E, with Sites C and D intended for sale at a later date. The whole of the site is not only greenfield but has re-wilded over decades and is now a maturing wildlife haven, with self set trees and over 800 wildlife species identified, a valuable resource. 

Sheffield City Council want to build housing on Owlthorpe Fields but their own planning committee voted overwhelmingly against the development.  Not one member of the planning committee voted in favour of the development.  

The developer appealed, against the wishes of local residents and our locally elected councillors, to the Planning Inspectorate who has now granted their appeal after a 6 day Public Inquiry. This is despite Owlthorpe Fields Action Group providing evidence as a rule 6 party that the development would destroy the abundant wildlife and biodiversity of the site.

In OAG's view the inspector took little account of the ecological data verified and submitted by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.  Further,  the woodland adjacent to the fields was designated as ancient prior to the Public Inquiry but the impact on the ancient woodland hasn't been adequately assessed.

A number of Councillors and our MP, Mr Clive Betts, and many highly respected environmentalists who submitted objections at the Public Inquiry called for an environmental impact assessment (EIA), as did we.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust have identified the sites as meeting the criteria for designation as a local wildlife site for grassland habitat following a number of recent habitat surveys.  

Sheffield has lost over 75% of its grassland habitat since the 1980's so this area is locally a valuable habitat and a conservation priority.

Why is this so important?

Just over 20 years ago Owlthorpe Fields was arable farmland.  Originally in the greenbelt it was removed with the intention of ultimately developing the land for housing.  Some of the land was developed but the remaining area was left unmaintained for 20 years - so the remaining sites are greenfield.   Nature is a wonderful thing and slowly over the last 20 years or so the flora and fauna of the area have re-established themselves, created new locally conservation priority habitat, and is utilised by a number of protected species, home to many red listed bird species and the species rich grasslands provide an invaluable habitat for invertebrates.   Despite this an invertebrate survey was deemed unnecessary!  

The biodiversity on the fields is now far superior to that when the area was arable farmland, and replacing the hundreds of large well established trees with a handful of sapling trees around the development isn't going to improve the biodiversity compared to 20 years of re-wilding.  

The local community cherish the area Owlthorpe Fields have developed into.  We have no local park or other usable green open space. It provides a place for outdoor education, for birdwatching and to learn about flora and fauna. It provides a place to walk, to run, to spend time alone, or with family and friends, providing physical and mental health benefits, offering peace and tranquillity.  It's a wonderful resource for the community, for our children to grow up in and enjoy for many years to come. 

During the covid-19 pandemic lockdown it has become ever more clear that the space is essential to the wellbeing of the community.  We have worked together as a community and held bio-blitz events and Himalayan balsam clearing events.   It has brought us closer together and kept us going in an unprecedented national crisis when mental health has suffered greatly throughout the country.

You can read more about the deeply concerning environmental and social impacts at www.owlthorpefields-actiongroup.org.uk.  

Take a look at the biodiversity we, the community, have found on our fields......this is only a small collection of the insects and plants!

We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and climate emergency.  We cannot afford to destroy this area rich in flora and fauna that has been re-wilding for over 20 years.  It has a 20 year head start over anything that the development could possibly contribute in the way of biodiversity net gain either on site or off site.  Once built on it has gone forever.

We have taken action but we need your help.....

The council and inspectorate have failed to adequately take in to account all the available evidence of the biodiversity, the ancient woodland, the ancient hedgerow, the priority habitats, protected species and red-listed birds on the sites.  Neither have they considered the climatic benefit of the existing large number of well established self-set trees in this re-wilded landscape; The carbon sequestration of the hundreds of self-set trees have a far superior contribution to Sheffield Council's climate targets (having declared a climate emergency in 2019) than the few token trees planned for the new development.

We raised money for the appeal from the community and by the production of calendars with flora and fauna images taken on the fields to fight the appeal as a rule 6 party with the aid of a planning consultant and an expert witness provided by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust but the appeal was granted.  We now aim to take the fight to statutory review to get justice for the wildlife and the community so that the true environmental and social impacts of developing the full site are established.

To cover the cost to take it through to statutory review we will need to raise £7,000 with a stretch target of £50,000 to fund the complete review process.

We have come so far and fought endlessly for the area we love.  We have done this for our community and we feel we have a responsibility to the many people affected, who care deeply about this proposed tragedy for nature, both locally, across the UK and the world, at a time when the biodiversity and climate crisis reminds us that we all live in one shared home and every green space matters.  

We cannot do this without you.

LET’S  DO THIS TOGETHER!  

Please give generously, every donation helps - join us in standing up for nature, for UK wildlife and future generations to come.   

Website:  www.owlthorpefields-actiongroup.org.uk

Twitter: @save_our_fields

Facebook:  Owlthorpe Fields Action Group

Instagram:  owlthorpefields

Email:  owlaction500@gmail.com


Thank you from all at Owlthorpe Fields Action Group


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Update 2

Owlthorpe Fields Action Group

March 27, 2021

PRE-ACTION LETTER SENT AFTER POSITIVE LEGAL ADVICE

Things are moving swiftly on.  Thank you everyone for your pledges so far.  We have now instructed solicitors and an experienced and well-regarded planning barrister. The funds we have raised so far has enabled our legal team to review the evidence and they think we have grounds for challenging the appeal decision.  A pre-action letter has been sent to the Government indicating we may be challenging the decision.   

We now URGENTLY need to raise a further £20,000 to cover the costs of lodging the case and ensuring that the group can cover the costs risk.  

So we urge you to pledge as little or as much as you can afford to see justice for democracy, the local community and the Wildlife on Owlthorpe Fields realised.

Thank you from Owlthorpe Fields Action Group

Update 1

Owlthorpe Fields Action Group

March 17, 2021

We did it, we made the first milestone! Our solicitor is now reviewing our case

A heart felt thank you to everyone who has pledged towards our legal costs.   We made the first milestone of £7k in the first 5 days. This is an amazing achievement and shows the passion of the community for our treasured green space. This means our solicitor can now start working on our case with a view to taking it to statutory review.  

We couldn't have got this far without you, but we now need to achieve the £50k target to cover the full review process should we be granted permission to go to statutory review.  

If you have already pledged you can continue to help by:

  • Retweeting the link on Twitter
  • Sharing the link with friends on Facebook and asking them to share it far and wide
  • If you are local you can spread the fund raising by word of mouth

We have a long way to got but TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!


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