GREEN belt campaigners are urging councillors to say “No to Yes” and throw out plans for the £300 million YES! Project in the Rother Valley.
The South Yorkshire branch of the Campaign for Rural England wants Rotherham Borough Council’s planning board to reject a bid by the developers behind the huge scheme for renewed planning permission.
Developer Oak Holdings has yet to start building the giant leisure scheme on the edge of Rother Valley Country Park.
It has to reapply for planning permission because its existing five-year consent is about to run out.
The CPRE this week branded the YES! Project plans “completely over the top.
It said that councillors should block them as they would affect “precious, restored green belt land.”
But Oak Holdings boss Steve Lewis insisted that the scheme, which includes a multimedia entertainment theatre, a convention and exhibition centre, a health spa, an extreme sports centre and a new stadium for the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team, would provide many environmental benefits and create more than 2,000 jobs.
John King, planning officer for CPRE South Yorkshire, said: “We can see how things like a chocolate experience and brewing experience sound like exciting tourist attractions but it’s completely over the top to build such a massive development on precious, restored green belt land.
“There’s plenty of undeveloped brownfield land in Rotherham that is far more suitable and could actually help regenerate urban areas.
“Rother Valley Country Park lies in a valuable sliver of green belt that separates Rotherham, North-East Derbyshire and Sheffield.
“Green belt land is protected and plays a crucial role in preventing urban sprawl across this area of South Yorkshire, so we have to stop these outrageous plans.”
Mr King also warned that the YES! Project would cause local traffic problems, with up to six million visitors a year predicted and parking proposed for almost 3,500 cars.
Mr Lewis, who insisted that the land to be developed was not “a virgin piece of beautiful parkland,” said that the issues raised by the CPRE had been thrashed out before the original application was approved five years ago.
“The original plans were subject to an extensive and lengthy process which went right to the Deputy Prime Minister’s office,” he added.
Everything was considered in detail and it was decided on balance that the economic and environmental benefits outweighed concerns about the status of the land.
“I am somewhat surprised at the objections of the CPRE as all the issues they are talking about were covered before.
“I have offered to show them around the site as there are huge improvements going on, as well as at Rother Valley Country Park.
“We will only be developing ten per cent of the land and will be creating more than 2,000 jobs.”
Oak Holdings planned to start work on the scheme soon after being granted planning permission in 2005 but it was not until 18 months later that a key development agreement was eventually signed.
The original plans have been altered to include the Steelers’ stadium and the development is now expected to be built in phases, instead of as one building.
Oak’s revised plans are expected to go before councillors next month.
They can be seen on the council website at www.rotherham. gov.uk by using the Planning Map Search tool and looking for application number RB2010/ 0097.