Green Belt land earmarked for development

Cattle grazing in the Lincolnshire countryside.

Cattle grazing in the Lincolnshire countryside.

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Green Belt land across Barnsley, and possibly the Dearne, is set to be sacrificed for future industrial development.

However, the apparent need for development sites in a borough where 77 per cent of land is classed as Green Belt should not come at the expense of the environment, says the council’s Economy and Skills Scrutiny Commission.

The Commission’s recent investigation into the council’s new development plans heard that available office accommodation has halved over the last year, and that almost one million square feet of industrial space has been snapped up.

This has left the borough with an acute shortage, particularly of large units major new employers could be seeking in the area.

Barnsley’s existing infrastructure is within its 23 per cent of its land quota, with 137 hectares of reusable ‘brownfield’ land identified for possible future development.

The Commission will submit its recommendations to the council’s Cabinet next week. And it will ask for full environmental and health impact assessments on the final development plans, that are due to be published in the summer.

It is acknowledged that some green belt will have to be built on to attract major employers and secure jobs the borough needs, but the Commission wants reassurance that this will be kept to a minimum.

Impact assessments are vital, said the Commission, so that the council and other land owners can anticipate negative effects of development, and take action to tackle them.

Good transport links increase the allure of development sites. The Commission welcomed the council’s bid for Sheffield City Region Investment Fund cash to improve the borough’s network, but was concerned to hear the Fund was oversubscribed. The Commission will urge Cabinet to fight Barnsley’s corner in future funding negotiations.

It also recommends good walking and cycling links to residential areas near development sites, so that local people can access new jobs.

Economy and Skills Scrutiny Commission Chair, Wombwell Coun Richard Wraith, said: “It is an unavoidable fact that major new development is needed in Barnsley in order to bring in the thousands of jobs we need over the next few years, and there is simply not enough room left within our existing development borders.

“However, green belt is very important to local people and rightly so, and development in these areas must be very carefully planned.

“We need a future for Barnsley that is sustainable and that means new jobs have to be found, but they must not come at the expense of our environmental heritage.”