Councillor Douglas Johnson has submitted a comment on the application by Avant Homes on the planning application for greenfield land at Owlthorpe Fields. This follows comments from Green Party member, Graham Santer.

The application is to be determined at a Planning Committee on Tuesday 2nd June, which can be watched online. The agenda and report can be found at

Councillor Douglas Johnson’s comment:

I am writing to support the residents and others who have objected to the planning application at Owlthorpe Fields (19/03143/FUL – Erection of 74no. dwellings, formation of access road, associated landscaping works, open space works and flood storage works | Land Off Moorthorpe Way Sheffield S20 6PD).

Urban sprawl is the great failed planning policy of the twentieth century. In what other field would the council consider itself bound by a provisional decision from the 1960s?

This is significant: the application would fall to be rejected under the council’s policy of building on brownfield sites [CS24] were it not for the fact that “Owlthorpe Township” is treated as an exception. Otherwise, the policy states that expansion of new housing in this area “will be strongly resisted.” [Core Strategy para 4.26]

The exception in policy CS24 is out of line with NPPF’s drive towards focussing on brownfield sites first. It is hardly an up-to-date policy, given that the site was former farmland that was earmarked for housing “in the 1960’s.”

Perversely, the officer’s report claims that building on this Greenfield site is “supported” by the policy on building on brownfield sites. The claim that the “development of this Greenfield site is compatible with the NPPF as it is part of a wider strategy for prioritising previously developed land for housing” is nonsense: granting this application will do nothing to promote the use of brownfield land. By contrast, the NPPF requires recognition that undeveloped land can perform many functions, such as for “wildlife, recreation, flood risk mitigation, cooling/shading, or carbon storage.” [para 118(b)]

Overall, as many residents have pointed out, this is a low-grade scheme of largely executive homes, at a low density that does not comply with policy CS26. No social rented affordable housing is proposed: shared ownership accommodation is a particularly bad deal and it is notable the developer has refused to mix “affordable” housing in with the other executive homes.

Any sustainability benefits are limited and do not outweigh the “high ecological, landscape or recreational value” [CS24]. The proposal does not comply with ecological policies GE11, GE13 and GE15. Proof of this is that, even now, the developer has been unable to produce an acceptable ecological management plan and intend to reserve that decision to officers. That should really be a matter for the committee.

The transport proposals are inadequate: despite being within close proximity to a tram stop, this is a car-based development, with over 200 car parking spaces. The developer has rejected requests for access for buses and even for enough electric vehicle charging points, citing a failure to supply “adequate electrical capacity.”

Finally, there is a difficulty with the officers’ recommendation where the council has a financial stake in the outcome of the planning decision: receipt of the sale proceeds of the land is conditional on planning permission being granted. Given the level of interest in this application and the need to avoid bias in this unusual situation, permission should not be granted without an independent planning assessment. This specialist should be instructed jointly by both the council and representatives of the residents group who will be affected.

I trust these comments will be considered by the Planning Committee on June 2nd.

Cllr Douglas Johnson, (Green Party)


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