"Ah yes, Smithy Wood."
In the campaigning bible, one of the best ways to tell that a cause is resonating with the wider world is when people start telling you about something you have been working on for some time. It shows permeation, a level of reverberation and in truth a degree of luck in catching the popular mood.
Smithy Wood, near Sheffield, is an example of this. For 800 years, this wood has survived, long beyond its years as coppice woodland to fuel local homes and smithies’ forges, and beyond more recent activities such as road building that fragmented this once huge woodland.
It is the latest proposed human impact though - a motorway service area - that has caused so much recent discussion and, in many quarters, horror.
Smithy Wood’s notoriety
Since launching a campaign to defend Smithy Wood almost three years ago now, I have had this woodland raised with me by (now former) Government ministers, officials and many, many members of the public. Media interest has arrived from as far afield as Australia.
Each one though has spoken with one voice asking the same question; 'why on earth would someone want to destroy such an important habitat as this and in this way?'
Many reasons have been put forward by the applicant, and indeed many imaginary rocks thrown at the woodland by their bevy of self-appointed experts and consultants. 'Some of it’s been damaged, there are others with more value, locals don’t respect it enough etc...' are terms often pushed forward to defend their proposal.
When you strip away the window dressing and put aside the red herrings (of replacement planting and translocation of the woodland soils) the stark reality remains; the concreting over of 5 hectares of ancient woodland and the consequent irreversible impact on the wildlife and local community.
Currently, we are stuck in a continual holding pattern of the applicant submitting more and more documentation in an attempt to make their case. The latest set went up last week and anyone with a keen interest can find out more on the Sheffield City Council’s website. We suspect the case might be heard at some point in the autumn.
Until then it’s a waiting game and we’ll keep everyone updated as things progress. If you haven’t already objected to this planning application, you can do so here. By doing this you’ll be joining the thousands of people calling to keep this ancient woodland safe for future generations to enjoy.