Active travel

Penistone Road retail centre – a failure of planning policy

Penistone Road retail centre – a failure of planning policy

Joint statement from the Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield

This week, Sheffield City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee approved a new retail centre opposite the Hillsborough football ground on Penistone Road.

Developers now have planning permission for retail outlets including a supermarket, gym, drive-thru restaurants and a builders merchants.

They will build them on a largely derelict triangle of land between Penistone Road, Herries Road and Herries Road South.

The Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield welcome the overdue redevelopment of this land. But we are disappointed and concerned that the Planning Committee did not take up our suggestions for improved active travel facilities for people walking and cycling.

Our two organisations objected to planning permission unless the existing substandard active travel provision around the site was radically improved. (Please click here to see our earlier news post in which we set out our concerns)

The city council has declared a Climate Emergency. But planning decisions like this suggest the council is not giving enough priority to sustainable travel.

The Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield are now calling on the council’s Co-operative Executive to review how this planning application was presented and handled by the Planning and Highways Committee.

Today we are issuing the following joint statement:

After the last 18 months of pandemic and a summer of terrifying disasters driven by climate change there is a very widespread hope and expectation that we will at last start to take sustainable travel seriously.

Tuesday’s Sheffield Planning and Highways Committee suggested sadly otherwise when they approved a new retail and leisure park on the Penistone Road/Herries Road triangle site in Hillsborough including a gym, a value supermarket and a coffee shop with only the most minimal concessions to supporting sustainable travel by foot or cycle.

The Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield had requested that the redevelopment of this long derelict site should include an upgrade of a section of the notoriously substandard Penistone Road cycleway which borders the site, to install a controlled crossing for pedestrians and cyclists at the dangerous Herries Road South junction, and that the historic Wardsend Mill Goyt which runs through woodland at the north end of the site be properly restored and opened to public access and stewardship.

Not only was the information presented by officers to the committee at best misleading and at worst plain wrong, but with the honourable exception of new Green councillor Brian Holmshaw, no other member of the committee could even summon enough interest to raise any of these matters, including the chair Coun Peter Price who also doubles up as chair of the council’s Cycle Forum!

To be fair, some widening of the heavily used but seriously substandard Penistone Road cycleway will be delivered but only along a part of the site frontage, and to an unsegregated 4.0m. And an improved design of the new access road designed to give priority to people cycling and walking – essentially a small tarmac ramp – is included “subject to safety audit”.

But the opportunity to provide a consistent full standard, fully segregated walking and cycle route along the whole site frontage on an important radial route has been thrown away, as was the chance to get the developers to pay for a sorely needed controlled crossing of the Herries Road South/Penistone Road junction. These will apparently be left to the council to deliver at some unspecified future date and subject to funding from unspecified public sources and in the case of the crossing, only when the developer decides to do something with the old Charlie Browns auto spares site.

A question about the Wardsend Mill Goyt revealed that no one present even knew whether it was a waterway, let alone its historical or environmental potential.

Most troubling were the reasons given by officers for failing to press for these improvements:

  1. Penistone Road is not considered a ‘Strategic Cycle Route’. Really? It appears on the council’s official cycle map, it’s part of the National Cycle Network and it fits the current criteria for government and city region policy to promote direct ‘utility’ cycle routes following major radials. It’s also a key link in the proposed 20 km Upper Don Trail.
  2. The improvement would constitute “an isolated section” which would be dangerous for users if it was of a higher standard  than adjoining connections. Again, it’s not in any sense isolated and how are staged improvements of existing routes ever going to be justified if this rule is applied?
  3. The improvements for cycling and walking requested would be “disproportionate” since the development was not expected to generate significant extra demand for walking or cycling. This seems to say that most customers and staff are expected to continue to travel by car and that’s ok – a circular argument if ever there was one!
  4. It is not the role of a developer to provide strategic long distance cycle or walking routes. But if that were the case, how is it that the council were able to get Meadowhall to construct a then “isolated” mile of the Five Weirs Walk, or to get Bloors at Deepcar or Barretts at Oughtibridge to build significant sections of the Upper Don Trail, both now on site? Application of this principle more widely would be a huge step backwards for getting the private sector to contribute to the massive task of promoting active travel.
  5. Widening of the cycle-footway at the north end of the site would affect a “protected woodland”. Yet the only trees affected by the modest incursion required into this large area would be a few scrawny self-set sycamore and ground elder, in a woodland desperately in need of management and thinning. Was this really the intent of the Tree Protection Order?
  6. Widening the cycle footway to a preferred 5.0m would require a reduction in parking spaces within the development. This actually isn’t true, as the developer’s own plans showed, but even if it was is that really a good argument in this era?

Far from representing a new determination by the council to  ‘build better’, this decision looks like a massive and dismal step backwards .

We would call for a serious review by the Council’s Cooperative Executive into how this application has been handled and presented to the committee.

Upper Don Trail Trust

Cycle Sheffield

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Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield press for improved active travel routes near Hillsborough

Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield press for improved active travel routes near Hillsborough

The Upper Don Trail Trust and Cycle Sheffield have joined forces to press for radically improved active travel routes near Hillsborough football ground.

We’re urging Sheffield City Council planners to insist on segregated cycleways and safer road crossings as part of a new retail development.

Developers Jaguar Estates have submitted revised plans for a retail centre bordering Penistone Road and Herries Road.

They want to build a mixed-use scheme including shops, warehouses, restaurants, a builders merchants and car repair centre.

The scheme would regenerate a largely derelict triangle of land between Penistone Road, Herries Road and Herries Road South.

It replaces an earlier scheme that received planning permission last year.

The original planning approval required the developers to provide a Travel Plan that would “encourage and facilitate less car dependent living”.

But we and Cycle Sheffield argue the developers have failed to deliver on this. We’re now urging a much stronger commitment to sustainable and active travel.

We are also pressing for restoration and public access to a historic waterway (the Wardsend Goyt) and rundown woodland at the north end of the site.

Well-designed and segregated cycleways would improve the Penistone Road cycle route into the city centre, and would link to a new section of the Upper Don Trail now being planned from Herries Road to Hillfoot.

So, what do we want to happen next?

We have objected to the revised planning application unless the following improvements are incorporated as specific conditions:

  • The Penistone Road cycleway widened and segregated to a consistent five metres along the whole site frontage
  • The footway on the Herries Road frontage to be widened to a consistent five metre width to accommodate a segregated cycleway as part of the site restoration, not simply noted as a future “improvement line” for others to provide
  • The new vehicle accesses from the site to Penistone Road and Herries Road to be redesigned as continuous cycle-footways or ‘blended crossings’ which prioritise walking and cycling over exiting vehicles
  • The traffic lights at the Penistone Road/Herries Road South junction to be converted to a Toucan Crossing at the expense of the developer and as a condition of the use commencing
  • Details of how the woodland and mill goyt area is to be restored, what public access/amenity is to be provided and who is to be responsible for its ongoing management and funding should be provided before planning permission is granted not as an afterthought
  • The development will need to include enhanced car parking restrictions for this area.

What is our active travel message to the developers and the council?

Simon Ogden, chairman of Upper Don Trail Trust, said: “We welcome the regeneration of this long derelict site but much has changed in the world over the last year.

“Developers now need to adjust to the new normal of prioritising active travel such as walking and cycling. It’s no longer acceptable just to focus on car access.”

Dexter Johnstone, of Cycle Sheffield, said: “Sheffield City Council need to ensure this development enhances rather than degrades cycling and walking provision in the area which is already patchy.

“They can do this easily by applying conditions which require the development to meet modern active travel standards.

“It is vital that all new developments in our city are designed to enable more people to travel actively.”

The Jaguar Estates development site viewed along Penistone Road North
Cyclists on Penistone Road currently have to share the pavement with pedestrians. We are pressing for a properly segregated cycleway
The existing cycle route runs along the cluttered Penistone Road pavement. We would like to see a properly segregated cycleway built alongside it.
The Jaguar development site viewed from Herries Road
The development site viewed across Wardsend Goyt from Herries Road, with Hillsborough football ground behind. This litter-strewn verge could make way for a properly segregated cycleway
View of Wardsend Goyt and rundown woodland at the north end of the Jaguar development site
The historic Wardsend Goyt runs through littered and unloved woodland at the north end of the site. This could become a beautiful new public open space.
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