CAMPAIGNERS who collated a 600-strong petition to protect a wildlife habitat from being destroyed as a result of a planned Barnsley Council housing site have hit out at the local authority for ignoring their views.

The proposed 35-home development, on a 1.19-hectare site currently used as grazing land on St Michael’s Avenue, Monk Bretton, will be discussed at a planning board meeting on Tuesday.

A decision on the proposals, endorsed at a cabinet meeting in January, should have been made in March although delays were enforced by the coronavirus outbreak.

Hundreds of local residents signed a petition urging the council to reconsider ‘slaughtering’ the land, deemed vital to both local wildlife and the wellbeing of those living in the area.

But the scheme - which consists of six four-bedroom, eight three-bedroom and 21 two-bedroom homes - has been earmarked to be approved having been allocated for housing in the local authority’s local plan blueprint.

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A council report said: “Seventeen individual objections have been received and there is an online petition, currently signed by almost 600 people.

“The main concerns are loss of wildlife, reduced highway safety, parking issues and increased noise, overlooking and disturbance.

“Following feedback, measures have been put in place to make sure the development protects the current habitat, compensating for any loss by providing replacement vegetation.

“The site borders an industrial estate to the north, as such a survey was submitted with the application to assess the impact of the industrial activity on the proposed residential dwellings.

“The report concluded that there would be some impact on the proposed residential properties from the industrial estate, however that could be mitigated through the erection of a 2.4-metre-high solid timber acoustic barrier on the north-west and south-west boundaries.

“During the construction phase the site will be systematically stripped in order to encourage any wildlife into adjacent habitat. A qualified ecologist will be undertaking a watching brief where necessary.

“The creation of new garden habitats will help to compensate the loss of habitat to the grassland currently on site. To allow for the dispersal of hedgehogs and other small mammals between gardens, small gaps beneath or between garden fences will be incorporated, notably where close boarding fencing is to be used.

“Taking into account the relevant development plan policies and other material considerations, it is not considered that there are any significant and demonstrable adverse impacts that would outweigh the benefits associated with the granting of planning permission for the revised scheme.”

Rachel Stewart, who started the petition, said the area formed a vital ‘thoroughfare’ between neighbouring green belt spaces, and the habitat had grown in recent years - with deer and foxes returning since the lockdown.

Rachel, 34, of nearby Preston Way, said: “This sadly will result in the area being flattened, including established hedgerows and trees housing a multitude of creatures, birds and other wildlife.

“This area also acts as a thoroughfare between protected green belt spaces, allowing larger mammals such as foxes, badgers and deer a safe passageway avoiding roads and other dangers.

“The trees and hedges are alive with nesting birds and in itself the area is a small ecosystem on our back door - its value to local wildlife is immeasurable.

“It’s also important to recognise the positive effect this has on the community’s mental health, living so close to nature.”