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

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Save Thorpe Woodlands Poster

We have just published our first poster to publicise the threat to these beautiful woods.

Please feel free to download a copy of the poster and print it off.

The poster can be accessed via this link SAVE THORPE WOODLANDS POSTER

If you can think of anywhere or anyone who would be interested in a copy please send them one.

This is a vital time in the campaign as we have just become aware that Belmore Land Group are increasing the scale of their proposals for building over these wonderful woods.

We will publish details of their enlarged proposals shortly, in the meantime it is essential that we keep up the momentum behind this campaign and to do that we need publicity and your valuable support.

Thank you.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Thorpe woodlands housing growth has already started: now it's 800 houses!

The Examination in Public (EiP) of the GNDP's Joint Core Strategy begins on November 9th. The inspector's job is to wade through hundreds of pages of submissions objecting to, or supporting, the GNDP's plans and ultimately to decide which elements should go forward and which need to be changed or scrapped.

As previously reported here, before the EiP had even been scheduled an important element of the JCS - to make the Growth Triangle a 'strategic allocation' - was rejected due to the weight of objections, meaning that the further public consultation the GNDP were so anxious to avoid will now have to happen after all.

This has bitterly disappointed the predictable bunch of big developers who supported the strategic allocation: as well as the likes of Persimmon, Hopkins, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt, the list of pro-development enthusiasts includes - quelle suprise - the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust.

Because of blunders by the GNDP the deadline for submissions was extended from 8th to 15th October. The T&FT exploited this extension by hurriedly submitting reams of hastily written papers, revised in the light of the scrapped strategic allocation.

Most of the developer's comments struggle to justify reinstatement of the strategic allocation while whinging that the restrictions on development on wildlife sites, woodlands etc are too strict. Most are long-winded, but the top prize for verbosity goes to T&FT, whose relentless outpourings of corporate-speak-ridden, heavily greenwashed waffle engulf page after page. The Trust seem utterly convinced that the more they say, and the more pretentious the language they use, the more seriously they'll be taken.

The T&FT's submissions contain comments that are by turns telling, worrying and risible. You can read the whole thing on the GNDP website ( ), but here are a few tasters:

"The T&FT carried out a master planning exercise with local stakeholders through a Charette held in July 2010. This identified that circa 700-800 new homes could be brought forward as part of a sustainable urban extension on T&FT controlled land alone"

So the T&FT are not only implying that their charette was a success, they are also claiming that the charette's outcome was that up to 800 houses were intended! The 631 they said they'd settled on at the charette's final presentation was bad enough. To now inflate that figure by 27%, while implying that 'stakeholders' were somehow involved with coming up with these numbers, is outrageous.

Parts of the T&FT land are allocated as a County Wildlife Site (CWS). However, the GNDP recognise that there are requirements that will need to be satisfied with regards to ensuring the protection and enhancement of areas of ecological value but that this can be done alongside the sustainable growth and through the provision of appropriate and attractive green infrastructure. The CWS is not a prohibition or, in principle, an onerous restriction. It requires an understanding of the reasons why the CWS was designated, the current land use and its impact and an understanding of the impact/benefits of a new development"

What the T&FT would like the inspector and planning authorities to "understand" is that the CWS was not designated for good reasons, the current land use (ie: not woodland but 'commercial forestry') has become outdated and needs reviewing, and that the 800 houses they want to build would have no negative impacts and massive benefits. Oh, and by the way T&FT, all the woodland is designated as CWS, as you know.

"The County Wildlife Site designation on the plantations is not an impediment to development. Indeed, without development the heathland restoration aspirations of the two authorities simply can not be achieved in the context of a plantation and woodland crop. Equally the opportunity of development will enable an enhancement of the woodland which can be managed to prioritise amenity rather than commercial purposes"

The 'two authorities' reference presumably applies to BDC and NCC, both of which are members of the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership which supports restoration of heathland. In view of the fact that the T&FT's plans would entail building up to 800 houses with supermarkets, roads etc, right on top of some of the best habitat on the site, it seems improbable that any sane authority would view their scheme as offering opportunities to enhance anything but their own wealth. Not only that, but the heathland - which has done nicely without any intervention so far - could easily be enhanced within a sympathetic woodland mamangement regime.

"It will be important, in developing a landscape framework for the new growth area, to recognise the fundamental shift in the character of the area, from urban fringe towards a transformation into an integral set of neighbourhoods within the fabric of the city. While the preservation and enhancement of natural features will be key to establishing a high quality environment and conservation is important in its own right, such features must respond to a changing role in landscape, environmental,recreation, productive and leisure conditions within the geography of the city"

A polite way of saying that the countryside around north-east Norwich, including its woodlands, will (if T&FT et al have their way) be consumed and turned into a vast extension of the city - with a few remnants kept to make the sprawl a bit prettier. The T&FT's vision for the future is expanded on in the next snippet:

"A multifunctional network of greenspaces and green links connecting to Norwich and the rural hinterland will have been provided. Physical linkages between the older villages of the Growth Triangle and suburbs of its hinterland will have been created to support community integration and equity in access to services and facilities. Within the Growth Triangle economic growth will have been achieved including within green industries and knowledge economy, building upon the ecocredential and economic attraction created by development within the Growth Triangle"


"The T&FT considers that it is important to conserve, manage and enhance the natural environment... It is the intention that such features are integrated into development in order to create a sense of place and a quality environment in which to live, work and visit... This will result in more sustainable growth whereby communities have appreciation and respect for the natural landscape as well as improved opportunities for interaction with the natural environment. The natural landscape is also crucial to creating a high quality environment which in turn attracts people and builds value in the area"

Isn't preaching the importance of respect and appreciation for the natural environment, while planning to bulldoze most of it and wipe out irreplaceable habitats, a bit incongruous? Are these people blind to the fact that we already have a very high quality environment in Thorpe's superb woodlands?

Saving perhaps the worst for last:
"The area being promoted as a sustainable urban extension by the T&FT is fortunate in having a number of attractive landscape features"

NO, T&FT, your land is not fortunate in having a number of attractive landscape features - IT IS an attractive landscape feature - leave it alone!

Through their 'charette' the T&FT asked the local community (sorry, 'stakeholders') what level of housing they would consider acceptable in the woods. The answer back then was a pretty unequivocal 'NONE', and any equivocation has since hardened into total opposition to loss of any woodland. If the tiresome locals won't agree to 631 houses, why not go for 800? It seems likely that the T&FT's approach will harden drastically from now on: it will probably come as some relief to be able to drop the nice guys facade they'd strained to project.

We will be keeping a close eye on them. Keep watching the blog for more news.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Biodiversity: the importance of Thorpe woodlands

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has published the results of an intensive survey into plant biodiversity, which revealed that over 22% of plant species, globally, are now at risk of extinction. There has previously been surprisingly little focus on the decline in plants, most research having been concentrated on animals - birds and mammals in particular.

Kew's research shows that the main threat to plant biodiversity is habitat destruction, generally caused by agricultural conversion. Contrary to the assertions of pro-globalisation enthusiasts this does not mean the conversion of wilderness into fields for the benefit of malnourished people. Instead, the vast majority of natural habitat loss is due to industrial-scale exploitation to supply consumer demands in the rich world, eg: biofuel production, rubber, palm oil, cotton, soya and maize for beefstock feed etc. Deforestation remains by far the greatest factor in the extinction of terrestrial species, both flora and fauna.

Stephen Hooper, director of Kew, explains that their research will contribute to the forthcoming Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, at which representatives of worldwide governments will, supposedly, agree on policies to halt loss of the world's biodiversity by 2020. Stephen Hooper says that the 2020 target may seem ambitious but that in a time of accelerating loss of biodiversity it is essential that all nations scale up their efforts.

The Thorpe woodlands are already recognised as a Core Area for Biodiversity by the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership, which includes Broadland District and Norfolk County councils. This is because of the sheer size of the woodland area, and their designation as County Wildlife Sites. But little in-depth research has been carried out into the biodiversity of these woods, beyond the CWS surveys in 1997. If expert surveys were carried out into the woods' fungi, lower plants, invertebrates, birds, bats and other mammals it is almost certain that they would be found to be of even greater conservation importance than previously realised.

Thorpe's woodlands provide, in microcosm, a local example of the importance of forest for its habitat value. One only has to refer to the species list (see the menu bar at the right of this page) to appreciate the enormous biodiversity significance of these woods. We can't afford to lose them, and their 'owners' must not be allowed to deprive the entire community of them for their personal profit.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Letter writing works!

An important success has just been achieved in defeating attempts by the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) to push through their plans for a huge 'Growth Triangle' around north-east Norwich, the area of which includes the Thorpe woodlands. The GNDP recently 'consulted' the public on changes they wanted to make to the 'Old Catton, Sprowston, Rackheath & Thorpe St Andrew Growth Triangle'.

Firstly, they wanted to change the status of the development area from a broad location for development into a Strategic Allocation. This would have fixed the boundaries of the growth triangle on an Ordnance Survey map. By fixing the boundaries, land that would normally have been safeguarded from development, such as woodlands, would have been up for grabs if insufficient land of lesser conservation importance were found to be available to meet the 10,000 houses target for the triangle.

Secondly, Broadland District Council (BDC) wanted to prepare for development by means of a Supplementary Planning Document rather than an Area Action Plan. What does all this planning jargon mean? Well, development under a Supplementary Planning Document does not require any public consultation, whereas under an Area Action Plan, it does. In other words, this artful use of the planning system would have bypassed the democratic process, meaning that the whole 'growth traingle' would have been immune from any public say all the way through to 2026 and beyond. It would have been entirely up to BDC to decide what could be built and where, throughout the entire area, for at least the next 16 years.

However, due to the efforts of a few local campaigners, the meaning of the otherwise incomprehensible consultation document was unravelled and broadcast to members of Friends of Thorpe Woodlands and other local campaign groups. As a result, 189 written objections were submitted, and their weight of numbers and the soundness of their arguments had to be acknowledged. The GNDP has announced (in terms that avoid any reference to the influence objectors had, or the fact that its proposed changes were completely unjustifiable) that it has decided to scrap the changes and leave the previous 'Growth Triangle' policy as it was.

The significance of the area no longer being changed to a 'Strategic Allocation' is great: it means that Broadland District Council will now have to hold a public examination of the growth triangle concept and - if the growth triangle goes ahead at all - consult on what kinds of development will be considered acceptable, and on what types of land.

If the 'Strategic Allocation' wording had remained, it would soon have become obvious that there was no way of meeting the 10,000 new houses target without sacrificing large areas of land within the 'triangle' boundaries that would normally be safeguarded from development. Thorpe's woodlands would have been under considerably greater threat if this policy hadn't been defeated.

This victory for reason and commonsense, pleasing though it is, does not mean that the Thorpe woodlands scheme is dead: it merely means that it should become even more difficult for the landowners to convince BDC that permission should be given to build on them. We need to maintain our efforts against the landowners' vile scheme - but we can take heart that, given enough effort, reason and commonsense can prevail. Writing letters to planning authorities, politicians etc can seem futile, but this small victory proves such pessimism to be misplaced. People power CAN work, and letter-writing DOES make a difference, as long as the letters are reasonable and enough people write them, at the right time. We need to remember this when, or if, the landowners ever submit a planning application for the woods.

We must not merely hope that BDC's updated policies will include very strong presumptions against any loss of woodland - strengthened even further where woodlands are County Wildlife Sites, Areas of Core Biodiversity or Areas of High Landscape Value (as are the Thorpe woodlands) - we must do whatever we can to ensure this happens, by writing more letter & emails to BDC members and senior planners over the next couple of months.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

John Fleetwood, local Tree Warden and editor of Broadsheet (the Broadland Tree Wardens Newsletter), has written a feature article on Thorpe Woodlands and the Friends in this month's Newsletter; I'm pleased to say its readership includes all the local Councillors. I thought you'd like to have a chance to read it:

Broadsheet 086 - September 2010 with FTW article