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

Saturday, 25 June 2011


FTW has issued the following Gail warning, valid for 19:00 hours on 28th June:

Gail Mayhew, consultant to Broadland Land Group and BLG's most loquacious public promoter, has invited herself to a Thorpe tree wardens' walk around Belmore Plantation next Tuesday. The tree wardens' walks are open to anyone interested in trees and woodland, and a high turnout is expected at this one.

It may seem odd that the promoter of a scheme that would involve reducing the 144 acre Racecourse wood to a fringe of trees around a housing estate, would wish to voluntarily appear at a walk through the neighbouring wood. But Gail Mayhew is extremely persuasive and expert at avoiding the fundamental issues by deflecting attention onto minute, theoretical details.

At last year's charette, Gail held forth with an unstoppable stream of near-evangelical praise for her own ideas. She spoke tirelessly about footpaths and cycleways, allotments, self-sufficiency, walkable communities, garden birds and an endless array of other nice, green-seeming topics. A lot of her ideas would be quite nice, if it weren't for the fact that they all hinge upon eradicating a huge area of superb woodland. But Gail's enthusiasm isn't hindered by such details. Questions about the appalling effects of her scheme on the woodland and its ecology were batted away with evasive responses: wouldn't we like to see people growing their own vegetables? don't we think that housing where people can walk and cycle to work would be a good thing? aren't we as concerned as her about global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions?

A few well-meaning souls left their Gail encounters feeling a tad guilty about standing in the way of such worthy concepts, and forgot about the heart of the matter, ie: that Gail was not describing a development on some brownfield site, but on a 200 acre County Wildlife Site woodland. The ecological diversity and richness of the woods is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to their scheme, and Gail & co have been careful to avoid straying far into that territory. What little they have publicly uttered on the subject has been frankly ridiculous.

They have claimed that only parts of the woods are of CWS quality and that they could build around these small areas without harming them. They are especially keen to play down the ecological value in Racecourse, both because this is where the bulk of the housing would go, and also because this wood has by far the richest ecosystem. Racecourse contains an amazing range of habitats and numerous scarce and rare plant species, including several that are found at only a handful of other sites, and one that occurs nowhere else in Norfolk. To suggest - as they have - that such a unique ecosystem could be not only conserved but enhanced by turning most of it into a housing estate is quite incredible. Either they are well aware of the absurdity of such a notion, or they are genuinely so ignorant about ecology that they honestly believe what they say. Either way, they cannot be trusted on this subject.

The situation in Belmore is slightly different. Only around half of Belmore would disappear under their original 631 houses scheme, with the area closest to the local population supposedly retained with public access. This was the bait: the hope must have been that enough people would care only about the bit of woodland they walked their dogs in, and be sufficiently afraid of losing even that, that they'd gain local support for the scheme. Unfortunately for BLG, the local people have proved far less selfish and gullible than that. We would remind anyone inclined towards this way of thinking that BLG has already increased the proposed housing number to 800, and that during last summer's charette, it was revealed that up to 1200 'units' had been considered an ideal number. Not only that, but keeping 25 acres or so of woodland at the expense of the rest would be a very foolish trade-off.

The tree wardens' walk through Belmore might seem to Gail like an ideal public relations opportunity. We hope she won't try to exploit it in this way; if she does though, many people are ready to provide the counter-argument if necessary.

If you want to come along, the walk is on Tuesday 28th June, starting at 7pm at the South Hill Road entrance to the wood. All welcome!

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