Loxley valley water power sites added to South Yorkshire Local Heritage List

Loxley valley water power sites added to South Yorkshire Local Heritage List

Great news for the Loxley valley – our historic water power sites along the valley have received official recognition on the South Yorkshire Local Heritage List.

Inclusion on the List reflects the local historic significance of the water power sites in the valley bottom, where numerous dams and water wheels powered industry for hundreds of years.

The listing provides details of twelve separate water power sites along the River Loxley and Storrs Brook, between Stacey Bank and Malin Bridge.

Together they made up an integrated water power system stretching the entire length of the valley.

Remains of most of them still exist in the form of weirs, dams, goits (water channels running adjacent to the river), mill buildings and some of the historic wheels and wheel pits.

Some of these sites are already recognised nationally as “Grade Two listed buildings”, reflecting their wider significance in the emergence of water power.

There are nationally listed water power buildings at Olive Mill, Low Matlock (which is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument), and Malin Bridge Corn Mill.

The South Yorkshire Local Heritage List identifies heritage features that do not enjoy national protection, but still contribute to the distinctiveness and history of the local area.

Adding the whole valley to the South Yorkshire List means local historic significance should be taken into account in any planning decisions that affect the water power remains, although it won’t provide the same level of protection as national designation.

How can I see details of the new South Yorkshire listing?

The South Yorkshire Local Heritage List has a dedicated website run by the South Yorkshire Archaeology Service.

All the heritage features that have been placed on the Local Heritage List can be viewed there.

This link will take you directly to listing for the Loxley valley water power assets, where you can read the full submission and see the photographs that accompany it: https://local-heritage-list.org.uk/south-yorkshire/asset/10391

How did the Loxley valley water power listing come about?

The listing submission was prepared by a heritage working group including members of Friends of the Loxley Valley, Friends of the Loxley Cemetery and the Bradfield Historical Society.

We began work last year, basing our research on local knowledge and observation, and also drawing extensively on the “Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers” book that was published by the South Yorkshire Industrial History Society.
Our submission was approved and officially placed on the list this month (September 2023).

It joins similar listings for the Rivelin valley that were submitted by the Rivelin Valley Conservation Group.

Together, the two valleys played a huge role in Sheffield’s emergence as a major industrial city.

We hope that these local heritage listings will help us to achieve further recognition and protection for our unique and fascinating local water power heritage.

The Olive Wheel weir near Rowell Bridge in the Loxley valley

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Friends of the Loxley Valley start work to rediscover old stone slab footpath

Friends of the Loxley Valley start work to rediscover old stone slab footpath

Volunteers from Friends of the Loxley Valley have started work to “rediscover” historic stone slabs on the public footpath running up Loxley Bank from Rowell Bridge to Stannington.

We’ve cut back brambles and scraped off soil that had accumulated over many years. This had produced a thick layer of turf that was obliterating most of the original stone surface.

Underneath the turf, we were stunned to find the first stretch of the old slabs is still beautifully laid. The slabs are in excellent condition despite years of abandonment and neglect.

We’re not sure whether anybody knows the detailed history of the stones and when they were laid.

Potentially they date back hundreds of years. That’s when local mill owners needed a firm and dry surface to get workers and materials to and from the old water wheels in the valley bottom.

The footpath runs all the way up Loxley Bank, starting at the old packhorse bridge over the river and running through the fields to the Acorn Hill estate.

Bits of the old stone surface can be seen pretty much all the way up where the grass and scrub has not yet grown over it.

First steps to assess the task

Four volunteers from FoLV spent a couple of hours this week at the bottom end of the path to get an idea of how much work would be involved in clearing it.

We started at the top of the steps just above the packhorse bridge, and cleared a thick layer of bramble and scrub that had pushed out over the line of the path.

We then carefully used spades to scrape off the layer of roots and turf that was covering the stones.

Then we brushed and gently scraped the slabs underneath to reveal a 10 yard section of the original path in all its glory.

It’s a seriously impressive part of the Loxley valley heritage: a beautifully crafted four feet wide jigsaw of local stone, laid flat and with immaculately straight edges. Some real Sheffield craftwork went into creating this!

Should we take the project further?

Clearing these stones dovetails with the footpath stewardship work that we’ve agreed with the city council’s public rights of way officer.

Our work focuses mainly on the valley bottom path between Rowell Bridge and Olive Mill, but we’re gradually taking on other tasks when we have the volunteer numbers and the time.

We’d be very interested in the views of FoLV members and other local people on whether clearing the old stone path would be a footpath heritage project worth taking further.

If we’re to press on, we may need to set aside more time, and we may need more volunteers.

But just look at the photos below to see the section of path that we rediscovered in just a few hours this week. This is local heritage and local folk history! Wouldn’t it be a shame if it was to become lost and forgotten forever?

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Friends of the Loxley Valley members hold second footpath trimming session

Friends of the Loxley Valley members hold second footpath trimming session

Friends of the Valley members have this week held a second footpath trimming session to help keep the main valley bottom footpath clear of overgrowing vegetation.

We pruned and trimmed the ‘tapping rail’ between Olive Mill and Rowell Bridge and lightly pruned a bit of tree growth that was dropping below head height.

We also cleared a few bits of dog muck that were on the path near Rowell Bridge, (come on folks, there’s a pooh bin there!).

It was the second time we’ve worked on this stretch of path, following our first session last month, (see earlier news post here).

We finished work on the path a bit earlier than we expected, so we then nipped across the river to clear some badly overgrown duckboards on the parallel footpath.

FoLV would like to thank all the members who’ve volunteered to take part in the work sessions. Our voluntary work helps the council’s hard-pressed public rights of way team to concentrate on urgent repairs from a very limited budget.

Work sessions are open to all Friends of the Loxley Valley members. Membership is open to all. See the ‘Get Involved’ page on this website for more information.

Photograph of overgrown duckboards on the south side of the river.

This duckboard bridge is on the footpath on the south side of the river. It was disappearing under shrubbery and grass, so we tidied it up.

Friends of the Loxley Valley members working to clear the overgrown duckboards

Friends of the Loxley Valley members working to clear the overgrown duckboards

Photograph of the duckboards after we cleared the vegetation

Job done! We’ve cleared the duckboards of overgrowth. Walkers can see the way ahead and get across without stumbling or tripping.

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Friends of the Loxley Valley receive £200 community grant from Bradfield Parish Council

Friends of the Loxley Valley receive £200 community grant from Bradfield Parish Council

Friends of the Loxley Valley are delighted to have received a £200 grant from Bradfield Parish Council to help us to do environmental work around the valley.

The community grant award will pay for public liability insurance and a set of high vis safety vests.

It will make it possible for FoLV members to start projects such as footpath maintenance work and litter picks.

Initially, we hope to start work along the stretch of “Easy Access” footpath between Rowell Lane and Olive Mill.

We hope to help keep it clean and tidy, and to help keep the “tapping rail” alongside the path clear of vegetation.

We will also do similar work along a short stretch of footpath further down the valley, between Loxley Road and Low Matlock Lane.

Bradfield Parish Council Chair Councillor Stephen Bennett presented the £200 cheque to FoLV treasurer Andrew Holmes and secretary Stewart Kemp before a recent parish council meeting.

“Friends of the Loxley Valley would like to thank Councillor Bennett and his fellow parish councillors for this generous community grant,” said Stewart Kemp.

“The money will help our members to work safely and visibly as we begin to do practical work around the valley.

“We’re all aware of the financial pressures facing local councils as they try to keep on top of countryside management and footpath maintenance work.

“We hope that FoLV members working as community volunteers will help to keep the Loxley valley looking at its best.”

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Wadsley and Loxley Commoners to stage summer art show

Wadsley and Loxley Commoners to stage summer art show

The Wadsley and Loxley Commoners (WALC) are appealing for local artists to show off their talents at a summer art show.

If you’re inspired by your visits to the Common, WALC ask you to express yourself artistically so that they can showcase how the Commons have fired people’s imaginations.

They’re asking for paintings, collage, photography, sculpture, or anything else that’s inspired by the Commons.

“You don’t need a lot to get going, just an interest, imagination perhaps, possibly observation, a few materials or even found objects, and a wish to have a go,” say WALC.

“Children’s art work is very welcome and would be lovely to have too. Its for all ages!”

The art will be put on public display at the RIVA cafe on Laird Road from Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th September, and at Wadsley Church Hall on the evening of Saturday 18th September.

They ask you to take your artistic work to the church hall from 4pm to 6pm on Friday 10th September.

Alternatively you can contact the organisers Jenny Laird or Hannah Isherwood to find out more.

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Friends of the Loxley Valley welcome planning inquiry decision

Friends of the Loxley Valley welcome planning inquiry decision

We are delighted and relieved that the Planning Inspector has upheld Sheffield City Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the proposed Loxley valley township.

The Inspector, Martin Whitehead, has just announced his decision following the three-week planning inquiry hearing in April and June.

He has ruled that the proposed development of up to 300 homes on the old ‘Hepworth’ factory site would substantially harm Green Belt countryside.

He said the development was in breach of national planning policy, and would damage the special character of the Loxley valley.

He highlighted the Loxley river valley as an important “Green Corridor” that required safeguarding.

The old factory buildings were in mature woodland that largely screened them from view, he said. In contrast, the proposed development would urbanise and intensify activity on the site, altering its character and encroaching into the countryside.

This would result in “a suburban domestic setting that would visibly increase activity and lighting and result in greater noise in the area both during the night and day”.

Mr Whitehead said the development would lead to unacceptable loss of mature trees, and he was unconvinced that it would not damage ecology and biodiversity.

The site was also in a steep valley bottom and remote from local services – an unsustainable location that would leave new residents dependent on their cars for their everyday needs.

Mr Whitehead recognised that redeveloping the site would bring some benefits. But he ruled that developers Patrick Properties had failed to set out the very special circumstances needed to justify building on this scale in the Green Belt.

“The site would change from largely abandoned buildings in a woodland setting to a well-used, domestic residential, suburban area,” he said.

“The proposal would be harmful to the special character of the Loxley valley.”

Our reaction

Friends of the Loxley Valley believe the result is a victory for common sense. It reflects the views of the many hundreds of local people who opposed the scheme.

Almost a thousand people objected to the original planning application. Numerous local groups and elected representatives added their voices, including our two local MPs, and the councillors for our local wards.

Thank you to everybody who supported us

Friends of the Loxley Valley and CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire would like to say a huge “Thank You!” to everybody who donated to our planning inquiry fighting fund.

Your commitment and generosity made it possible for us to participate fully in the planning inquiry alongside Sheffield City Council.

We told the Planning Inspector that local people want the old factories cleaned up and the site restored. But not in a way that causes more problems than it solves.

We argued that a new suburb of 300 homes would dominate the beautiful Green Belt valley bottom on the edge of the Peak District National Park.

It would also have created an unsustainable isolated enclave, leaving hundreds of residents dependent on their cars for most of their everyday needs.

Sheffield City Council voiced similar concerns.

The council presented powerful evidence on damage to Green Belt, landscape and ecology, including substantial tree loss. They also were clear that the site was an unsustainable location for large scale housing.

And local groups including the South Yorkshire Bat Group and Hallamshire Historic Buildings warned of the impact on biodiversity and industrial heritage.

We now hope to resume talks with the developers

Now that the inquiry is over, we hope to resume talks with the site owners, Patrick Properties, about alternative plans.

We are not resistant to change. Quite the opposite. Most of the old factory buildings have stood derelict for too long. 

We hope that there might now be scope for compromise. The Loxley valley is a remarkable place, providing a gateway from one of the UK’s biggest cities to a remote corner of the country’s most-loved national park.

We hope the old factory site can be remediated to achieve outstanding environmental standards that Sheffield can be proud of.

With determination and willingness, we hope that all parties may now be able to work together to achieve that.

Please consider supporting the local CPRE

Friends of the Loxley Valley would like to thank CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire for their unwavering help and support in fighting the long planning battle.

Our two organisations worked closely together to object to the original planning application. We then presented a strongly argued joint case to the planning inquiry.

Friends of the Loxley Valley could not have done this alone. The planning system is complicated, daunting and difficult to understand for local people who want to make their views known. The CPRE team provided invaluable planning expertise and experience.

The local CPRE depends entirely on charitable donations. FoLV urges all members and supporters to donate to CPRE PDSY and to consider becoming a member of the local charity.

You can donate or join online here: https://www.cprepdsy.org.uk/get-involved/become-a-member/

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Loxley valley planning inquiry – Inspector considers his decision

Loxley valley planning inquiry – Inspector considers his decision

The Planning Inspector in the Loxley valley inquiry is now considering his decision after hearing all the evidence and visiting the site of the old Hepworth refractory works.

The Inspector, Martin Whitehead, ended the inquiry on Thursday, June 10th.

He then visited the site the following day to view the factory buildings in the light of the evidence presented.

The parties to the inquiry presented their closing submissions on the final day of the appeal hearing.

Mr Whitehead will now assess all the evidence. He must decide whether to uphold the appeal by the developers Patrick Properties Strategic Land Ltd.

The developers are appealing against Sheffield City Council’s refusal of planning permission for up to 300 homes.

Before closing the inquiry, Mr Whitehead said he hoped to reach his decision ‘within the next few weeks – it certainly will be within a month’

Thank you for your support

Friends of the Loxley Valley would like to thank everybody whose support and fighting fund donations made it possible for us to take part in the inquiry.

We and CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire took part as a joint ‘Rule 6 party’, supporting the city council’s refusal of planning permission.

This meant could present our own evidence and ask questions of the other parties.

In our closing submission, we argued that the proposed redevelopment was far too large.

We said it would create an isolated car-dependent township in Green Belt countryside that should be protected from large suburban housing schemes.

Please click here to read or download our closing submission to the planning inquiry

Thank you again to everybody who supported our case. We now await the Inspector’s decision.

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