A FIERCELY contested scheme which will see large-scale development built on a vast swathe of green belt despite widespread opposition is set to go out to public consultation, the Chronicle can reveal.

Barnsley Council wants to use part of the green belt for a site known as ‘Barnsley West MU1’ - bordered by Pogmoor, Higham, Gawber and Barugh Green - for 1,700 homes, a new primary school to cope with the increased demand and employment land with a link road connecting it to the M1.

The development has been met with strong opposition since the proposals were first announced as part of the town’s local plan, which sets out a blueprint for new housing and employment sites until 2033 and was formally adopted in January.

The 122-hectare site - enclosed by built-up areas on three sides with the M1 on its remaining border - will be discussed by the council’s ruling cabinet members on Wednesday, where approval for a public consultation, which could take place as soon as next month, is expected to be given.

A council report said: “A masterplan project team has been established consisting of council officers, the Barnsley West Consortium - which is a joint venture between Strata Homes and Sterling Capitol - and their agents.

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“This report seeks cabinet approval to undertake a community consultation exercise with residents and stakeholders in Barugh Green, Higham, Gawber and Pogmoor. The site has the capacity to deliver 1,700 homes and 43 hectares of employment land, together with a new primary school.

“It is essential that the local community and stakeholders are involved in the shaping of these strategic masterplan frameworks to ensure that new developments positively support, and contribute to, existing communities, their services and infrastructure.”

Campaigners from Keep It Green 2014, a group opposing the ‘damaging’ proposals, say the vast site accounts for about 15 per cent of the borough’s green belt land.

Michael Keane, from the group, said: “Keep It Green 2014’s particular efforts have been concentrated on trying to protect this site.

“Over-development will result in the loss of individual and historical identity for villages when they are merged into a huge urban conglomerate.

“Residents, of which I am one, will be seriously blighted during the 15-year local plan development period and beyond, while all residents to the west will be subjected to massive increases in traffic, increased environmental pollution and unbearable pressure on infrastructure.

“I have fields of barley at the back of my house - but that will be occupied by warehouses.

“Although we lost the original fight, it isn’t quite over as we still have the consultation and I urge residents to take part in it and submit their valid concerns.

“However, I feel it will be another case of the council not listening to its residents and pressing ahead regardless.

“The abundant wildlife and recreational benefits of the site will be destroyed and valuable agricultural resources will be lost forever, while other vacant and neglected sites remain intact.

“In the recent furore surrounding the council’s proposals to destroy Penny Pie Park, they have repeatedly stated that there is already a chronic issue with traffic volumes on and around junction 37 of the M1.

“In addition to ongoing developments in Darton, Mapplewell and Barugh, the proposals for MU1 will result in a further 1,700 houses and a significant number of large-scale industrial units and warehouses.

“The resulting effect of the increased vehicle movements are unthinkable - any dubious gains from the Penny Pie Park gyratory system will be negated.”

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton urged residents to take part in the consultation.

“I appreciate the fact that there’s been a lot of public opposition to the site but it’s been approved for development purposes in the local plan and so that part of the debate has ended,” he said.

“MU1 is the largest masterplan area proposed in Barnsley from the local plan.

“What’s important now is to get as many comments on it as we possibly can, so residents can help shape the site’s future.”

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