CONTROVERSIAL plans to develop on a flood-prone ‘wildlife haven’ - that were initially deferred due to concerns raised by locals - are again set for approval.

The housing scheme on green space off Darton Lane, Darton, was expected to be granted outline planning permission at last month’s meeting of the planning board.

But amid fierce opposition, led by local Richard Denton and backed by Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis and Darton East Coun Steve Hunt, and questions over suitability, the plans will instead be considered at a meeting next week.

The land was indicated in council documents to yield 86 homes, but the application by the Church Commissioners for England requests outline planning for 68 reduced from an initial 73.

New plans reduce the number of homes further to 46 - close to half the original allocation for the 3.7-hectare site.

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But Coun Hunt continues to ‘strongly object’ to the scheme - adding it must have been included in Barnsley’s local plan as a mistake.

The site isn’t considered publicly accessible greenspace.

“It seems to have slipped through the net and perhaps because it is a smaller site did not gain the same level of scrutiny that much larger development sites did during the process of compiling the local plan.

“I understand that over 100 residents have already objected to the new plan and this number will increase.”

Plans generated 188 letters of objection from the first stage of consultation and a further 165 during the second.

Concerns range from the site’s flood risk and its status as a valuable wildlife and nature resource to Darton Lane’s already poor safety record.

Traffic - according to objectors - is already at ‘breaking point’ on the site’s would-be access, leading to further calls to axe the bid.

“This development will not lead to any increased school places, extra GPs or better roads,” added Coun Hunt. “Our infrastructure is already stretched, and this development will just make things worse.

“Much of the only remaining countryside that divides Darton and Mapplewell will disappear.”

Section 106 money for loss of amenity will be secured as part of the development but Coun Margaret Bruff suggested at the previous meeting this would not account for the loss of local green space, and that the Church Commissioners for England instead look at making the site a public resource rather than using it for housing.

A report to be issued to Tuesday’s meeting said: “Following the meeting in June, the applicant has provided an amended parameters plan and indicative layout which shows the proposed housing numbers reduced to a maximum of 46 and the species rich meadow to the west of the site retained and expanded alongside a buffer strip to the south of the site.

“The scheme now proposed reduces the number of houses achievable on this site and will not secure access to the remaining allocation.

“However, it will ensure that the biodiverse grassland is retained and managed appropriately into the future.”

The report added a ‘robust’ transport assessment has been supplied by the applicant.

“In addition, the applicant has agreed to enter into a Section 106 agreement to secure no net loss and potentially a net gain in biodiversity through on-site retention and enhancement as well as off site mitigation and obligations to ensure a policy compliant development with regards to necessary provisions in relation to greenspace, education, affordable housing and sustainable travel.”