26th January Yes Means NO

As I write this from my death bed (a severe stomach bug has laid me low) my spirits have been lifted by the news that Rotherham Borough Council (RMBC) have cancelled the YES project. Those of you unfamiliar with this project might wonder what the YES project is, sorry was.

Back in the late 1980's the area, previously the home of Brookhouse Coking Plant and Colliery, was opencast. Following the removal of many tonnes of coal the site was landscaped alongside some remnants of what lay before. Pit-house West was born. The site composed of woodland, grazing areas, pools (latterly reed beds) and the nearest thing we have around here to heathland. Alongside the adjacent Rother Valley Country Park it has made for some excellent birding over the years. As far as I was aware it was always intended for Pithouse-west to become part of the park, having been handed over from British Coal to RMBC. Sadly this proved not to be the case - presumably the cost of running the site could not be justified and at the start of this century the YES project was announced. Would this be a project encompassing the natural beauty (admittedly man-made) of the site and blend in accordingly - judge for yourself!

As a resident of the Rotherham Borough, for over forty years, I could see one major stumbling block with the development - it's in Rotherham! However unlike me the town planners are always up for schemes like this and lets face it they do have a few on the go (another fine example later) they are forever trying to polish the turd that is Rotherham.
Oak Holdings (the developer) shrugged off comments about damage to the local wildlife scoffing at the wintering Bitterns - claiming that they were just stopping off en-route to more popular places such as Potteric and Old Moor (we have had more wintering bitterns than the latter). The site was described by BBC Look North as an industrial wasteland, ironic really considering that at the time the Orgreave site really was an industrial wasteland!

Pit-house West 2001

Pit-house West 2005

The ecology report was a complete waste of time and by no means a true reflection of the site. However this is where as birders we fall down. Ecology reports are taken at face value and unless you have the records to back up claims in defence of a site you're on a losing wicket. Records of scarce and rare occurrences don't hold much water with planning boards - it's the bread and butter birds (and other wildlife) that really matter. Despite submitting quite a few records from this site I didn't submit enough and my claims of various breeding birds were met with scorn. So unless you want to see your brown field site (though PHW is in Green Belt) disappear under a mountain of concrete get those records in!

Fortunately a blind man could see that the developers crazy ideas for this field in Rotherham would never come to fruition and for the time being the birds can sleep sound in their reedbeds.

Meanwhile those other sites remain in the pipeline (or should that be pipe dream?) and by far and away the best of these is the Waverley Project - cosily named that because presumably calling it Orgreave would conjour up bad memories of 1985. Please take a few minutes to look at the WAVERLEY PROJECT I promise you it will be worth it - remember this is Rotherham!

The Dream

The Reality

And lastly. Some might think of me as selfish and say "but what about all the jobs that these sites would create". If you had inspirations to work in a fast food restaurant for barely the minimum wage then I'm sorry. If you hope to be the proud owner of a waterside apartment then why not look somewhere where the sun shines for more than two months a year and the water isn't full of rats piss. If however you want to enjoy the reborn countryside after suffering years of industrial blight then welcome to Rotherham.

Brookhouse Coke Ovens

Orgreave 1985


Anonymous said...

Spot on mark. I remember the ecological survey they had for the Earth Centre (remember the Green Elephant). It was done by a senile old codger Jim Griffiths, who didn't know shit from toothpaste in the first place, in winter.

He missed the Marbled White colony and even more distressing, missed the only colony of Small Blue in Yorks. The SB's were wiped out by a road.

No one really wants a concise eco-report, just one that suits their plan.

Steve said...

Great news Mark living in Beighton it forms part of my local patch despite no luck this year with the Bittern as yet, the decision was helped by Sheffield Steelers new managment pulling out of wanting a new stadium, the only thing i never agreed with was the protest to stop the new Network Rail depot on Beighton Yard, well paid engineering jobs down the knick which have been snapped up in Derby, the land still belongs to Network Rail and is a brown site,i am def a man of nature but there is still a need for wel paid jobs and contary to some peoples thought i am very lucky to be able to work outdoors on the railway and see many and varied wildlife living in the relatively undisturbed area of the railway

Anonymous said...

Sometimes an economic downturn can be a good thing..

Good post Mark. Nicely put

Mike Watson said...

Great post Mark, you should get ill more often. Sadly an 'economic downturn' is sometimes merely a 'stay of execution'. Enjoy the wildlife while we still can. Take care and hope you're feeling better soon. Br, Mike

Marcus Lawson said...

Excellent stuff Mark and as you say it goes to show how important it is to submit all your records - right down to Feral Pigeon! For those who haven't participated yet we are approaching the last month for you to enter winter records for the BTO Atlas http://blx1.bto.org/atlas/ don't be shy in flicking back through your notebook and entering old records too.
Talking of pipedreams have you seen the truly idiotic plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary and nicknamed Boris Island? If this happens then I'm off.

Hope you're feeling better soon Mark.

Mark Thomas said...

The one thing they always underestimate is the power of the few people who do give a dam, well done, next battle !

Saul said...

Looks like the site isn't safe yet, they now plan to build a horrific Chinese style theme park