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

Monday, 11 July 2011


July 13th 2010 was the last day of the 'Belmore Park Charette'. It seems hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since Andres Duany's 'final presentation' on the benefits of Broadland Land Group's scheme. Mr Duany spoke for nearly three hours, and managed to avoid any questions on the woodland's ecology for the first two and three-quarters.

Jerome Mayhew, who introduced the presentation told us how the woods were not really woods but "commercial crops to be harvested", a theme picked up by Duany who tried to explain away the unpopularity of his clients scheme by declaring, astutely: "The controversy is that it's wooded". He went on to sweep this irritating trivia under the carpet by repeating that these 'woods' are merely plantations whose useful lives had expired.

Mr Duany went out of his way to inform us how much better the woods would be following their development, and launched into microscopically detailed descriptions of square roundabouts, back-yard parking areas, and how the housing estate would look like a combination of South Creake and a Georgian crescent. The wildlife would, if anything, be better off it seemed.

Towards the end a heated exchange took place between some of the audience and Duany. Audience members were forced to interrupt Duany's flow as, by 9.45pm it was obvious that he would talk about anything other than the woods until the building closed at 10. His suave persona deserted him as he floundered in unfamiliar waters, becoming increasingly angry at those demanding justification for the absurd claim that building a massive housing estate all over Racecourse Plantation would improve and enhance it. Even his own 'Masterplan', liberally splashed with friendly green and blue, couldn't hide the inescapable fact that Racecourse would be reduced to a shell, and the other two woods would be very largely suburbanised.

Mr Duany had promised at the beginning that all in attendance would receive a copy of the video recording that was being made of the presentation. Afterwards we were reassured by his assistants that it would be made available "in a few days".

On 22nd September 2010, BLG wrote to Thorpe St Andrew Town Council, assuring the clerk that: "The full video recording will be available on our website shortly. We are, as you know, keen to maintain an open channel of discussion with the local community, and we will shortly be placing more information and details of the ideas that emerged through the Charette process on our website. We will of course keep you informed of any changes".

On October 1st 2010 they sent an email to FTW supporters who had repeatedly asked when they'd get to see the recording (and who had also sought assurances that the recording would not be edited and sanitised). That email said: "We are sorry it has taken so very long to get the video up onto our website, we have in fact had to change our website providers in order to do this, we really do hope to have it up and running within the next few days. The charette and final presentation were all fully public events: to present an edited and sanitised version would be completely counter to our approach".

We can only judge them by what they have done or failed to do, against what they promised. Did they keep TSATC "informed of any changes"? No. Not even when they changed the number of houses to be built from 631 to 800.

After an entire year there is still no sign of the recording, or any other information. Despite innumerable requests and reminders, nobody from BLG has replied to any messages since last October. Nothing has been added to their website since the last day of their charette. We can only assume that they've realised the only thing to do when in a hole is to stop digging.

After a year, a lot has been acheived towards the goal of saving the woods. Since FTW was formed last August the campaign has communicated clear, factual information to a very wide audience. Virtually everyone in the Thorpe, Heartsease, Thorpe End and Dussindale areas is now well aware of the threat to the woods and the campaign to save them. FTW has succeeded in correcting the numerous misunderstandings among the local community that were generated through BLG's charette. Nobody any longer believes the woods to be tedious overgrown Xmas tree plantations; everybody wants the woods to remain intact rather than see them bulldozed for a housing estate. Thorpe's district councillors have been concerned about the threat from the start, and have worked hard to help the flow of information between their electorate and Broadland District Council. The campaign has received help from many people, not all of them local, including printers, pilots, graphic designers, photographers, artists, ecologists, botanists, landscape historians, cartographers and many others. There have been several events organised and very well attended by local people. The Evening News and EDP have covered the campaign very fairly. This blog has become a popular source of information not only locally but far and wide.

Surveys of the woods have been undertaken to assess the full extent and significance of their biodiversity: we hope to have the results collated and in publishable form before much longer. We are almost ready to publish an updated species list, which now includes considerably more flora and fauna than the original. This will appear as a link on the right-hand side of the blog, with a special post introducing it.

The campaign's relentless pursuit of the truth has exposed BLG for both what they are and what they're not. It has turned out they are not - as it seemed to many a year ago - a group of sincere, earnest and open characters who found themselves faced with a genuine dilemma: an urgent need to do something with the worthless plantations they'd found themselves lumbered with, and who wanted to keep as much of the woodland as possible for public benefit by earning an honest crust from a little bit of development. We haven't forgotten their careless admission, on July 7th last year, that they actually make a "small profit" from the woods as they stand. It has become clear that they are simply a group of wealthy individuals who have spotted an opportunity to become even wealthier by turning the woods so many people love, and which are of enormous ecological importance, into a housing estate.

They may have become silent, but they have not gone away. Millions of pounds are at stake, and their failed attempt to win-over the public won't stop them. All who care about the woods must remain vigilant. Keep watching the blog for updates and, if you'd like to help in any way, from writing a letter or email to delivering leaflets, please get your name on the FTW contacts list by emailing Lorna on:

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