Sheffield's Parks and Urban Green Spaces Under Threat

A number of urban green spaces have been earmarked by the council as an ‘identified opportunity site’ including another sports ground in Tinsley, after planning permission was granted to build a new school on Tinsley Recreation Ground earlier this year, Sheffield University’s Goodwin Sports Centre, a local nature reserves in Arbourthorne and Stannington and greenfield open spaces in Nether Edge and Stockbridge and Upper Don.

Councillor Steve Ayris, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Housing and Planning said

‘I am shocked the council think these sites are suitable for housing - urban green spaces, parks and sports grounds are vital community assets and should not be built on. So much for Leigh Bramall’s ‘Outdoor City’!

‘We found out earlier this week there is existing planning permission for 7,840 new houses in Sheffield – the council needs to do more to get these houses built rather than looking at parks and open spaces for development.’

According to the document, ‘identified opportunity site’ is defined as ‘sites assessed as being suitable for housing or sites that could become suitable in the future. They do not have planning permission for housing and are not proposed for housing allocation in the Local Plan.’

This means they will not be developed within the next 5 years and therefore not included in the Local Plan, but may be developed for housing in the future.

These sites were revealed in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) which was finally published yesterday afternoon, 6 days into the consultation period. Liberal Democrat councillors have already called for the consultation to be extended as not all of the information has been available.

Many other sites, including 116 in the green belt and a further 9 partly in the green belt are designated as ‘Long term options’ defined as ‘Sites assessed as being unsuitable for housing, but allows for any future changes to the SHLAA assessment methodology or Local Plan policy, which could mean a site becomes suitable, and we know that there is a willing landowner.’ They are currently off limits due to current policy but policy may change to make them viable.

Steve Ayris said

I am pleased the green belt sites have not been looked at, although the council is currently undertaking a Green Belt Review and I hope these sites aren’t going to be taken out of the green belt so they can develop on them – whilst maintaining that they’re not building on the green belt.’

To view the full document and to have your say on the consultation go to www.sheffield.gov.uk/sheffieldplan

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'Victory for democracy' as council to publish FOI data

Sheffield City Council is now to publish data on FOI requests from the end of this week following pressure from the Liberal Democrat group.

Cllr. Martin Smith has been requesting this data and putting pressure on the council by tabling a motion at the November full council meeting (4/11/15) calling on the council to publish data relating to FOI requests online. We have now been told that this data will be made available by the end of the week and will be regularly updated. Unlike other Councils, such as Leeds, Sheffield City Council does not already publish FOI data on a regular basis including the number of requests received and refused.

Data obtained by the Sheffield Liberal Democrats shows that Sheffield City Council Sheffield City Council issued refusals on, either wholly or partially, 22% of FOI requests in 14/15, compared to 11% by Bristol City Council and 18% by both Leeds City Council and Manchester City Council.

Latest figures from this month shows a recent spike in refusals, the percentage refused (full or partial) has gone up significantly.  It was over 50% in August.  The average for the last six months is 32%.

This may be partly due to the council’s blanket refusal to answer tree-related FOI requests, many from people who have never previously made a request under the Freedom of Information Act, instead branding the question topic as ‘vexatious’.

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Cllr. Martin Smith (pictured) said

‘This news is a victory for democracy. Finally the council are going to be open and honest about the amount of Freedom of Information requests they refuse. Hopefully this information being open for public scrutiny will mean they are more likely to answer FOIs’

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