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

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.

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