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

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Latest campaign news

Here is a quick update on what's been happening over the last week.

  • The Save Thorpe Woodlands campaign is now featured on the Guardian's 'Piece by Piece' website - find it on: Please take a look and leave a comment.
  • Two members of the campaign met Karen Buchanan from Radio Norfolk at Belmore Plantation on Friday 6th August. We showed Karen around the woods and pointed out the obvious fact that they are predominantly broadleaved semi-natural woods - hardly a conifer in sight except for a few in small corners. Mike Ryder from the Woodland Trust also attended and gave his / the Woodland Trust's views. Karen seemed somewhat amazed when she saw for herself the woods that the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust had described as "commercial conifer plantations, planted after the war". The interview is to be broadcast some time during the week beginning 9th August. Karen's show is 11am to 1pm every weekday, so tune in if you can. If you miss it, you can listen again on BBC iplayer.
  • While we were waiting for Karen Buchanan and Mike Ryder to turn up we were approached by a chap on a bicycle who stopped and offered us a leaflet, entitled 'Save Thorpe Wood'. It turned out he had independently found out about the development scheme and produced these leaflets himself - we are now working together! We also found some laminated posters alerting people to the threat to the woods at various points aorund them - our new contact hadn't made them, nor had we, so somebody else has taken their own initiative to fight against this scheme. There are probably others doing the same sort of thing. Let's all get together so we know who we all are and can combine forces. Divided we'll stand, but united we stand even stronger!
  • This blog has attracted a phenomenal number of 'hits' since it started two weeks ago. It is currently coming up near the top of the first page on Google, using the search terms: 'save thorpe woodlands' or 'belmore park'.
  • The campaign continues to gain support, not only from concerned individuals but also from conservation organisations. Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Campaign for Protection of Rural England (CPRE), and the Woodland Trust are backing the campaign's objective to prevent the woodlands being severely damaged (or destroyed pretty well altogether in Racecourse Plantation's case). The wildife author Richard Mabey is also supporting us, and we hope to gain support from others as the campaign progresses.
  • We have compiled a full species list for Racecourse Plantation - this will soon be added to the blog as a separate page, together with a gallery page of photographs of the woodlands' wildlife and landscapes. The species list is very impressive, including numerous scarce and rare species of flora and fauna. We welcome input to the species records - if you know of species not mentioned on the list (when it's available), please let us know by emailing Lorna on: . In order to treat records as reliable we must have your name and address, together with details of what species you noted, where in the woodlands, and when. We have to reserve the right to hold publication of submitted records until verified, as we must maintain high standards of accuracy.
  • The landowners, ie: the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, a.k.a. the Broadland Land Group, went to great lengths during their 'charrette' to assure everyone that they were acting openly and honestly, and were keen to involve the local community as much as possible. They told us they would be happy to answer questions if people sent them via email to: Well, we have sent them a number of questions since the end of the 'charrette' (July 13th), and they have not answered any. People who sent questions received a brief response on 23rd July promising that they would receive proper answers soon. No answers have yet been forthcoming. This doesn't do much to help the squeaky-clean, 'only trying to do what local people want' public image they've been so eager to present. Our questions have been very reasonable, eg: Andres Duany told everyone at the 'charrette' final presentation: "There's no need to take notes - this whole thing is being recorded [motioning towards a tripod-mounted camera with big fluffy microphone at the back] and you can all get a copy of the recording after this is over" - When will people be able to get a copy of the recording, and in what format? - no answer. Are they prepared to confirm that their description of the woodlands as "commercial conifer plantations planted after the end of the second world war" was wildly inaccurate: - no answer. Are they willing to concede that Andres Duany's assertion that the housing density would be: "3.1 per acre - that's low density housing, nothing like Dussindale estate" was grossly misleading: this figure can only be arrived at if dividing the whole 200+ acres by 631 houses: when taking into account the clear fact that his 'masterplan' shows the vast majority of housing on Racecourse Plantation, in which a small proportion of open space is retained, the true figure here works out at more than double that density! No answers to these, or any other questions so far.
  • Anyone who feels like asking these people any questions should do so by sending them to:
  • At their 'charrette' drop-in session on July 13th (to which only two people other than myself turned up, incidentally - and they were both from Broadland District Council) I found myself debating the ecological implications of their scheme with Gail Mayhew, the Trust's consultant. Gail was keen to tell me how all sorts of allotments, market gardens, cycle paths and other green things could be created every time I asked about the destruction of irreplaceable wildlife habitats. When it became obvious that I wasn't going to be deflected away from my queries, Gail kindly showed me the door, telling me the session was closed for the day. But not before I managed to ask her whether they had ever had an ecological survey carried out on the woodlands. Her reply was an unequivocal: "Of course we have". When I asked if I could see it, she told me it was publicly accessible at Broadland District Council to whom they had submitted a copy. Surprisingly, despite having made a concerted effort to track down anything resembling an ecological survey from the Trust or Broadland Land Group, BDC has been unable to find anything even remotely answering that description.
  • Save Thorpe Woodlands will keep you updated at least once a week until this is over. Please look out for the 'gallery' page and the species list page. Please also make your feelings known where they count (reasonably and politely please!). Full contact details can be found on the previous blog post.
  • Your comments are very welcome - please click on the comments icon and say what you want to say.


  1. It's not clear what stage this is at - is it outline planning permission that's been applied for? If so,ask for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) which is a must for this sort of site. If they say no, they won't do one, then seek legal advice. Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) can suggest someone. At the EIA, make sure wildlife concerns are heard, I would assume the Wildlife Trust can help with this. jen (

  2. In response to the above comment: There is no planning permission at present. The owners have made clear their intention to seek planning permission at some time in the near future (they told us September at a public meeting on 7th July). This is an unusual case as it has been initiated via the "Charrette" process, fronted by Andres Duany of DPZ - a very expensive American firm. The Masterplan they arrived at at the end of their eight-day charrette is, they have said, the basis for what they will be applying for.

    Despite huge local - and wider - opposition to the proposals, the owners still seem determined to press ahead. We expect a planning application at some point, but possibly not until after various strategic planning decisions have been finalised by the local authority and the Greater Norwich Development Partnership. These decisons may not be made until later in the year.

    In the meantime, we are trying to inform people about the proposals, and to clear up the misinformation broadcast by the owners. For details, please refer to the first and second blog posts, and the resources in the right-hand column. Thanks for your input and the ELF suggestion.

  3. I did go to the Charade, one of the early ones, and found Gail Mayhew in comabtive mood. Do you know that part of this site is a County Wildlife Site, which they are seeking to have rescinded? This is because it was classified as heathland, and they then coniferised it. The obvious lesson is that if landowners trash the ecological value of a site then they can get out of any planning constraints.

    I am a Tree Warden for Thorpe St Andrew, an unpaid Town Council rep and I am horrified at what they are trying to do. How many houses are they seeking to build now? She led me to believe at that meeting I attended it would be a few dozen, but I think she lied like a hairy egg:-)
    There is a conifer plantation towards the back of the woodlands, but the point is this: to remove that, and build on it, would trash the rest of the woodland, fragment habitats and destroy the integrity of this valuable area.

    There are many, many snakes in this wood - more than I have EVER seen, anywhere, in one small area. A proper survey of them needs to be done, at the right time of year.

    Marion Amos

  4. Thanks for your comment anonymous. In fact, the entire woodland area covering all three woods is a County Wildlife Site, and I'm glad to say there is no prospect of CWS designation being revoked. The heath remnants are still there, and have if anything expanded since the owners felled a fairly large area of softwoods a year or two ago. Norfolk Wildlife Trust considers the habitat quality to remain well above the CWS threshold, and our own surveys have discovered a number of species of flora & fauna that were previously unrecorded (white admiral butterfly being just one example).

    As you say, the site is excellent for reptiles, with adder, grass snake, common lizard and slow worm all there in good numbers - very probably among the best sites for such species in Norfolk, outside SSSIs.

    For full information on number of houses proposed, proposed layout of the development etc, please see the first and second posts on this blog.

  5. Great coverage in the Evening News (see if you missed it). Well done!