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Warehouse plan shows "utter contempt" for community, say Wincobank residents

Residents say warehouse plans for the site of a former steelworks could worsen flooding and should undergo a full environmental review before preparatory work takes place.

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The site of the former Outokumpu steelworks on Fife Street, Wincobank.

Bridget Ingle.

Residents have spoken out against new proposals to build a huge distribution warehouse on 14 hectares of active floodplain in Wincobank.

The plans cover the site of the former Outokumpu steelworks on Fife Street, which flooded as recently as November 2019.

A petition against the development launched by resident Bridget Ingle has already gathered 350 signatures.

Planning documents show that the applicant is Sheffield-based company Junction 34 Limited, which was registered on 29 May. It's unknown who the final occupants of the building will be, because this doesn't have to be revealed in a planning application.

As well as the flood risk, residents are concerned that increased traffic will lead to worse air quality in the area, which is already poor due to the nearby M1.

Community group Love Wincobank have written an extensive objection to the current planning application, which is for 'enabling works' to prepare the site for future construction.

"The Outokumpo corridor is a high risk flood area," say the group in their objection. "Therefore Sheffield City Council should be directing development away from this area, not encouraging it."

The letter goes on to allege that the entrance to the site on Fife St has been kept as ugly as possible to further the argument for development. "What it signals to the Wincobank community is the utter contempt the applicant has for them and the area they live in," say Love Wincobank.

20 02550 FUL SITE WIDE MASTERPLAN 1497823 1

The site-wide masterplan for the current application for preparatory works.

Now Then put this allegation to Planning Prospects, the agent acting on behalf of the developer, but they declined to comment.

An important aspect of the objections concerns the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the site, which would evaluate the effect of the development on the floodplain.

In March 2019, a council officer wrote to the developer saying that "the proposal does have the potential to have significant environmental effects in respect of flood risk, air quality and highway impacts and therefore it is concluded on balance that an Environmental Statement is required to support the future planning application."

But in August 2019 the Council's Director of City Growth told MP Gill Furniss that the project "brings with it benefits for the city in respect to matters such as employment and investment."

That same month, developers applied to build an access road ahead of the full project. This application was withdrawn in April 2020 after the developer failed to come to an agreement with the Environment Agency (EA) about flood risks on the site.

The new application for preparatory work, such as site clearance, does not include an EIA, with the developer saying that this will be provided as part of the full application in the future.

Wincobank residents say the assessment should be provided now, and that preparatory work on the site should not go ahead until the flood risk and other environmental issues have been resolved.

Residents have accused the Council of prioritising the interests of the developer over the health and wellbeing of local people.

"What happened between March 2019 and August 2019 for Sheffield City Council to go from 'this site needs an EIA because there is limited potential to mitigate the impacts,' to 'opening up this site brings investment and employment benefits'?" ask Love Wincobank in their objection.

Now Then spoke to the planning service at Sheffield City Council, who confirmed that an EIA wasn't needed for the application for preparatory works. They also rejected claims that the developers were attempting to circumvent the EIA requirements by dividing the project into smaller stages.

"It is not possible to circumvent the EIA thresholds by ‘salami slicing’ and dividing a project by applying for planning permission for each of the sub-divided projects," a planning service spokesperson told Now Then.

Outokumpu site 1970s

The site in the early 1970s.

Sheffield Green Party.

"In this case, rather than ‘salami slicing’, the regeneration of the site can’t move forward without first identifying whether the site can be developed at all.

"This is a perfectly reasonable approach and a further screening opinion would be required after this initial phase.

"The developers say they have submitted a pre-application enquiry to the Environment Agency (EA) about flood risk "informed by extensive discussion with them."

"It is anticipated that a positive response to this request will be issued by the EA," they said.

Sheffield Green Party and CycleSheffield have also objected to the current application, the latter on the grounds that a proposed access road would cut across the Trans Pennine Trail cycle route.

Planning Prospects, the agent for the application, told Now Then that their client had "reiterated their commitment to working diligently through the planning process and addressing any relevant issues raised by the city council.

"They added that they would provide "extensive submissions to support the employment generating redevelopment of the site in due course."

Filed under: #Planning #Wincobank

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