Photographs of Thorpe woodlands, their varied habitats, plantlife and wildlife all taken by friends and supporters. most taken between 2010 and 2013

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Further facts about the scheme

The blog’s first post gave some background information on what the owners (the Trustees of the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust) want to do, as well as some of the claims they have made about the woodland, and compared these claims to the facts. This post goes into a bit more detail.

Let’s look at some recent history first: The owners and their agent, Andres Duany, told the public repeatedly over the eight days of the ‘charrette’ that they were starting with a blank sheet and using the eight days to discover the views of local people, in order to arrive at a masterplan at the end of the process.

The truth is apparently rather different. The owners have a long record of trying to gain planning permission to build in these woodlands. One of the principal members of the design team let it slip, at one of the recent charrette drop-in sessions, that she had been working on the current plans for ten years. It seems that the owners have been working on their scheme for a very long time, and already had a pretty good idea of what their masterplan would look like well before the ‘charrette’ began.

Their current proposals represent merely their latest attempt to get the planning permission they are so eager for. Their eagerness is understandable (assuming they have no qualms about destroying woodland for profit): woodland is worth between £5000 and £10000 per acre, whereas development land with planning permission is worth between £200,000 and £500,000 per acre. With planning permission secured, the owners would become instantly a lot richer than they already are. This probably explains why they have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds so far on preparing and presenting their scheme (no need to pass the hat round for them – they can afford it!).

There are several obstacles in the way of their quest, however. Massive local opposition was predictable – people know and love these woodlands and don’t want to see them bulldozed for a flashy housing estate. The ‘charrette’ was a clever attempt to neutralise local opposition by presenting the whole thing as an opportunity for people to get involved and influence the future of the woodlands. Classic developer’s tactics were used, eg: painting a dismal picture of the site as it stands and emphasising how lovely it will be when they’ve finished.

Their ‘charrette’ brochure showed three pictures, presumably intended to cause readers to believe they depicted the land in question (please see page 3 of the ‘Belmore Park Charrette publicity document’ link under: ‘Find out more about:’ at top right of this blog page). However, they showed only one picture of the woodland (one of the few coniferous areas, with ugly plastic netting strung between the trees), and pictures of a field and a car park somewhere nearby. It is notable that, in the eight pages of their brochure words such as ‘woodland’, ‘trees’, ‘wildlife’ and ‘ecology’ were not used once.

They made a big deal of how much they have had to spend on managing the woodlands and how they need to make more money out of them (though it is clear that very little ‘management’ has taken place other than extraction of timber to be sold). They told us how generous they have been in not preventing public access, saying they could have put a ten foot fence all the way around the site if they’d wished (neglecting to mention that this would cost well over £100,000). They exaggerated the level of flytipping and other abuse that takes place in and around the woods, making it seem as if they are little more than an eyesore in places: in fact there is surprisingly little flytipping compared to many other local woods, eg: Ringland Hills).

At the ‘charrette’s final presentation, Andres Duany told us that the housing density would be 3.1 units per acre. This was very misleading: Mr Duany’s figure was derived by simply dividing the 200 acres (actually it is 205 acres, but let’s go by his figure for now) by 631. It took no account of the fact that the vast bulk of the houses would be built on Racecourse Plantation, or that some areas of woodland would be retained. If the housing density is calculated for the developed area of Racecourse plantation, the true figure would be somewhere between 12 and 16 units per acre, ie: no less than the density that is considered ‘normal’ by local planning authorities.

The fact that their land is long-established woodland is a big problem for the owners. Woodland is subject to a number of national and local government policies that seek to avoid loss of woodland. The Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership (of which Broadland District Council and the County Council are members) states that the aim should be to conserve 100% of existing woodlands, and to plant more.

These woodlands have also been identified as an area of landscape value. They have also been identified as a County Wildlife Site. In order to gain planning permission, the owners would have to convince Broadland District Council, as well as many other governmental and non-governmental organisations, that their proposals would either cause little harm to the landscape and ecological values of the site (very difficult in view of the facts), or that their housing estate is so desperately needed and would be so good, that these reasons should over-ride any objections.

They have been dealt something of a blow already. Norfolk Wildlife Trust has expressed very strong objections to the proposals, on the grounds that they would cause complete loss of large areas of valuable habitat, as well as significant habitat damage to land not directly affected by development.

They seemed to have won-over a small number of local people with their ‘charrette’ presentations, but it seems unlikely that many will continue to feel their concerns have been allayed when they find out they were not given anything like the full picture. Presenting the full picture is what the Save Thorpe Woodlands campaign is all about. When everyone in the area knows what an ecological gem they have on their doorstep, and what could become of it if the owners have their way, it will be very surprising if there isn’t even more of an outcry than there has been already. The owners know that, if they can gain strong public support for their plans, this will strengthen their case when it comes to seeking planning permission. Save Thorpe Woodlands campaign believes that they are flogging a dead horse in their attempt to achieve this, but it is vital that everyone who wants to save these woodlands stands up and says so – and says so to the right people at the right time.

Watch this blog for information on what you can do to Save Thorpe Woodlands!


  1. Some 200 people who attended the packed meeting at Thorpe Village Hall,heard the trustees say that if the publics opinion was against ANY development in these woodlands,then NO development would take place. 200 people voted for NO development,yet 7 days later Mr Duany produces a detailed plan for some 650 houses,
    saying this is what we need.!! So,were they listening or were they not. "Shamette" not charette,I should think. There was never a real NO development option and to come up with a plan so quickly indicates that they had THEIR plan all along and really had little intention of listening to the public. Now where have I heard that before!?

  2. You are quite right, we have discovered that the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust have been repeatedly submitting plans for housing over the woodlands for many years, including an 'Eco Town' and executive housing on Racecourse with a cafe in Belmore! All were refused by the council. The charrette was yet another of their many attempts to woo the council by trying to look as though they have gone to the local people and got their approval. That is why it is so important we all make our feelings known to the right people (MP's Councillors etc), so there can be no illusion of approval or acceptance of their building plans.

  3. Thorpe St Andrew resident2 August 2010 at 13:52

    As usual the developers have their own agenda and it seems that this Duany character has a proven track record of not only blatantly disregarding and showing no respect for the opinions of people who live in an area he has his eye on, but actually wants to prevent local people from being able to legitimately express their opnions in the first place.
    It's quite clear that these woodlands must be protected from this Charade, and it is equally clear that the explicit policies of Broadland DC and the County Council in respect of protecting woodlands apply here, so the landowners don't have a leg to stand on.
    We don't want this development, our council is already committed to protecting our existing woodlands and in fact to creating MORE woodlands, so it is obvious to all of us that this is not the right place for this development.

  4. harry the pencil7 August 2010 at 14:08

    I found out about this proposal for development in Thorpe through the Guardian Piece by Piece campaign and as somebody bought up in Norwich and interested in preserving habitats, but also an architect who has been involved in many charettes and community planning events over the last few years I thought I would post my comments.
    You are correct in saying this landowner has been looking to develop this site for a number of years as we were approached by them a few years ago to produce a masterplan using a similar process to that undertaken by Andreas Duany, it came to nothing so it's interesting for me to see Duany's name attached to this. His is an American practice promoting the concept on "New Urbanism" which proposes building mixed use high density "communities", in itself an admirable aspiration.
    Duany is best known for his development that was used in the film "The Truman Show". He is also very high profile, very persuasive and VERY expensive, so quite coup to get him on the part of the landowners. Also his very conservative approach to architectural style means that he is popular with anti-modernists (most councillors and Prince Charles to name a few influential people in our planning system).
    Regarding the charette process: involving local people, blank sheet of paper blah,blah, again an admirable aspiration but increasingly becoming a process to further only the developers agenda using the veneer of consultation with local people to give the proposals the illusion of public support. Don't be hoodwinked by the seductive images and talk of community benefits of the charette process. This landowner who are not developers will, if they get consent will sell the site on to volume house builders for the highest price who in turn will be interested in building as many "units" as they can at the cheapest cost and yet another important habitat will be lost for ever.
    Good luck in your struggle.

  5. harry the pencil - thank you very much for your most informative message. I would really like to speak with you, please is there any chance you might email me (

    My thanks again

  6. harry the pencil - am I right in understanding that you are saying that we would be WRONG to think that before planning permission is granted for development on this scale, the landowners would have had to have commit to matters such as building materials, design & architectural features, layout, density etc when negotiating with Broadland District Council officers?

  7. I was told by Gail Mayhew that there is a huge problem with vandalsim - I know the woods well, and that is total utter BS. As a local Tree Warden I can tell her, unequivocally, that there are issues with flytipping and vandlaims in the parish but NOT in these woods. It's utter and complete rubbish. Yes, woodland management costs money but there has been no real management for years. They just cut some of the conifers down, that's all. There has been no coppicing, no replanting, nothing.

    Marion Amos

  8. It is certainly true that the landowners have exaggerated the flytipping problem enormously. It is, in fact, quite surprising to see how little flytipping or other kinds of littering there is in these woods. A small amount of garden waste here & there, and a couple of recently dumped & burned scooters, but that's about all. Many other woods & green spaces fare a lot worse, eg: Ringland Hills. I guess the reason for the difference is that these Thorpe woods are overlooked at most entry points, or are adjacent to busy roads. Whatever the reason though, the fact is that the landowners' claims have been as grossly misleading on this subject as on virtually every other.

  9. John, I did get your phone message and I will contact you soon, promise. I have just been very busy this week.


  10. Have voted on 1st June via email with 5 reasons for a NO vote
    Home buyers are attracted to our region because there are wildlife spaces just like this which provide such a beautiful landscape. Shame on BDC if they allow this to be passed. Profit versus conservation and survival of our precious planet.