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

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Councillors Speak Out in Defence of Thorpe Woodlands

As mentioned in the previous post, both Councillors Nigel Shaw and Ian Mackie spoke out in defence of Thorpe Woodlands at the Broadland District Council meeting held on 22 March, prior to the Joint Core Strategy being voted in. Cllr Shaw voiced his strong support of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands and was keen to draw attention to the fact that Thorpe Woodlands are identified as an area of Green Infrastructure on page 29 of the JCS documents. Cllr Mackie then made the following statement, ending in a question to Cllr Proctor (Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy & Conservation):

Chairman, the Growth Triangle obviously contains Thorpe St Andrew and my constituents are rightly interested to know what this may mean for them, in both the provision of community facilities, the impact it could have up to 2026 (15 years. […]

Para 65 – states that some quite large parts of the Joint Core Strategy are not developable because of existence of a range of constraints. Even in parts which have relatively few constraints it will be necessary to ensure that the issue of biodiversity enhancement is kept to the fore of the Area Action Plan. Map on page 205 – shows area of existing green infrastructure. Thorpe woods included as an orange area. Strategic open space and core biodiversity areas. Page 177 – policy for protecting environmental assets – to increase public access to the countryside Page 197 – re-establish the link to Mousehold heath – Policy 12.

With this in mind, I would like to know the answer to my question – what areas are considered not developable in Broadland?

I note that in para 3.6 the inspector notes with praise the cooperation between Anglian Water, env agency and Natural England, indeed the inspector states under 3.7 the growth triangle represents the soundest approach to accommodating the scale of growth in Broadland.

As you know the Racecourse, Belmore and Browns Plantation (Thorpe woods as they are collectively known) are within private hands, but are widely used and form a green lung and are home for an incredible depth of biodiversity. Therefore I welcome that under Infrastructure Framework Priority 1 – page 147/148 Appendix 2 of the report, which states the importance of surrounding countryside. As you may be aware a significant proportion of these woods formed a wedge which linked Mousehold to Thorpe End. Many will know of the name Dussindale that was one of Robert Kett’s battles, as his struggle moved to that area through the woods from Mousehold

Natural England were consulted on a scoping opinion for a proposal in this area in 2007, which was later refused by Broadland District Council, and its response to any future application would cover the same issues. They recognised that until the Joint Core Strategy is adopted all planning decisions should accord with the local sites policy in the Broadland District Local Plan, ENV7. Development which would significantly adversely affect the wildlife interests of areas of local nature conservation importance, including County Wildlife Sites and ancient woodlands identified by English Nature…will not be permitted.

The Joint Core Strategy also provides some protection for County Wildlife Sites in the wording of its Policy 1: Addressing climate change and protecting environmental assets:

In areas not protected through international or national designations, development will minimise fragmentation of habitats and seek to conserve and enhance existing environmental assets of acknowledged regional or local importance.

Just recently the Thorpe woods have come under review again by developers, therefore I am keen to secure the long term future of these woods even within the Growth triangle, whilst and during the gap between the BDLP, JCS and AAP, and beyond. We have seen how important the Country views areas of woodland, given the recent government actions regarding the Forestry Commission. I believe that the JCS provides some security for these woods, via the policy recommendations I have noted above, however I would like to place a minuted response to a question for Cllr Proctor:

Cllr Proctor rightly stated that as part of the JCS the Area Action Plan will also be required to allocate sites which will be retained as strategic green infrastructure, such as woodlands.

Question: Could he assure me that the existing Racecourse, Browns and Belmore Plantations will be included in the new Area Action Plan and retained as that strategic infrastructure?

Reply by Cllr Proctor: Area Action Plan will be considered by the new administration; however, if I form part of that administration I would need some convincing why they should not be included in the new Area Action Plan.

[NB. Following the meeting we were advised that taking into account the legal constraints on Councillor Proctor this statement should be seen as being strongly in favour of the preservation of Thorpe Woodlands.]

To view the minutes please click HERE

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