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

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Two negatives make a positive!

A supporter has recently commented that the blog is too negative, and requests some good news for a change.

I suppose it is simply in the nature of this campaign that much of what we have to say is highly critical, though I'd disagree that it is negative. An important fact to bear in mind is that, right from the outset, we have been dealing with a group of people (ie: the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust and their agents) who have tried every trick in the book to persuade people that they mean well, and that what they want to do will be good for local people and the environment.

It was noticeable shortly after the T&FT's series of charette sessions and meetings that a number of people had been swayed towards the T&FT's side of the argument. These people are extremely persuasive and highly skilled in public communication techniques that succeed in diverting attention away from the basic issue (ie: that they want to turn the woods into a housing estate), onto theoretical and very particular issues that seem quite 'green'. In the early days, their persuasiveness was showing signs of paying off. Several local people commented that although they wouldn't want the woods to be built on, perhaps it would be better to agree with the scheme because the owners would get their way anyway (one of the tactics deployed during the charette was to portray the scheme as if it was a foregone conclusion). Others remarked that as it was the Gurney family we were up against we didn't stand a chance (it's true that the Gurneys have many friends in high places in Norfolk). Others believed that unless they got what they wanted, the owners would fell the entire woodlands out of spite (something one of the T&FT Trustees was apparently heard saying at one of the meetings). Yet others believed the Trustees' tale that they found themselves forced into a situation where they had no alternative but to build on the woods, as they had outlived their economic usefulness as woodland. And many originally accepted at face value the T&FT's claim that the woods were not much more than modern plantations of conifers.

Faced with a situation in which a significant number of people had picked up so many misapprehensions, half-truths and outright lies, Friends of Thorpe Woodlands considered it crucial to set the record straight, and then to provide as much well-researched, factual and reliable information as possible to the public.

So here's the good news: We have gone a long way towards achieving this objective!

On July 6th this year, hardly anyone even knew about the plans being hatched by the previously unheard of T&FT. By July 13th, ie: the end of their charette, hundreds of people were aware and up in arms about it, but there was a lot of misinformation and confusion in circulation as to what exactly was planned and what could be done about it. By August, Friends of Thorpe Woodlands had been formed and, by the end of August we had over 100 people turning out on a demonstration walk through the woods, and all of the Broadland District Councillors for the Thorpe area in full support of the campaign, as well as Chloe Smith , MP for Norwich North.

FTW members and supporters have worked together to raise the profile of the threat to the woods, and their ecological importance, to the point where the issues are now well known and well understood. FTW's membership list has grown to around 400 and continues to grow. Richard Mabey, the well known author and ecologist has publicly stated his support. The Woodland Trust is supporting us, and will issue a position statement soon. Norfolk Wildlife Trust's position statement has been widely circulated and has done much to overcome the falsehood that the woods are not of high ecological value. We have also attracted support and assistance from a wide range of other environmental organisations and campaign groups, though many do not wish to be identified as such yet (though we hope to be able to make some announcements soon).

We have tried to organise some positive events as well as concentrating on getting the message across about the dire threat to the woods. We have considered a litter-picking day and nature walks through the woods, but the T&FT have made it clear that - despite their public assertions that they want to engage in a dialogue with FTW and that they are concerned about protecting the natural environment - they will stand in the way of any such initiatives. On the day of the mass walk in the woods they placed 'Keep Out' notices at all entrances, and they have completely ignored our numerous attempts to engage in discussion with them.

To conclude, although the facts can be somewhat depressing I don't think we have been unduly negative. It is simply undeniable that unless all who care about the woods do whatever they can to save them, they could be buried under streets named after the wildlife that once lived there. FTW welcomes all suggestions for ways in which we can improve and develop the campaign - please contact us (see 'Your Woods Need You' posted on 2nd August) if you'd like to suggest anything or become a member. And feel free to add a comment via the link below.


  1. I don't think the campaign or the website is at all 'negative'. The suggestion carries with it the idea that there is something 'positive' to be gained from felling a beautiful and species-rich woodland and building housing on it. The only people who could find anything positive in that are the land owners and developers who stand to make a very large amount of money out of it.

    It's positive indeed that people's eyes have been opened to what is in those woods, and positive also that you have managed to muster wide support for the campaign to save them.

    It would be useful if the homepage of the website could carry a 'latest news' banner, to let people know exactly what stage the proposals have reached, and what the next move is likely to be. The danger is in letting people think that the threat has gone away. As we know, this is a long-term campaign for them to get permission to develop and they will not give up easily.

  2. Thanks for your helpful and positive comments Marion. Just as you say, it is a positive thing that people's eyes have been opened to the truth of the situation and it is a very positive step that, as matters now stand, hardly anyone is in any doubt as to what the landowners' motives are, or the lengths they are prepared to go to in attempting to deceive the local population about them. They must be kicking themselves about wasting a quarter of a million pounds or more on trying to fool us all into believeing that they wanted to do what was only right and in the community's best interests. We have exposed the truth behind their facade, and that has got to be a very positive thing.

    As for your idea of a 'latest news' banner, we will give this serious thought. However, we do tend to post all latest news on the blog as soon as we can (except certain matters about which we wish to maintain a certain level of confidentiality, in the interests of the campaign), so there probably isn't much more we can realistically do beyond what we've been doing all along.

    I suggest that everyone interested in the future of the woods takes a regualar (ideally at least weekly) look at the blog, on which they will find all the latest developments we feel able to publicly dislose.

    If anyone thinks that the threat has gone away they are very much mistaken. The T&FT are working hard behind the scenes (ie: secretly) on this, and are very unlikely to give up until it is made clear to them, by BDC, that they are wasting their time and will never get permission to build on the woods.

    Everyone who cares about the woods really must do whatever they can to keep themselves as well informed as possible, by following the blog and also becoming members of Friends of Thopre Woodlands (email: - don't omit the 'c' between lorna & beckett! - also, it is better to note the email address and send using your normal email account rather than try using the link on this blog, which seems very un-user-friendly!).

    FTW will keep all members informed of any important developments.

    We also welcome suggestions for campaign initiatives, as well as further comments on the blog.