Thursday, 20 October 2011
Friends of Thorpe Woodlands have raised concerns with Broadland District Council's planning department over a Draft Framework Document for the North-East Norwich Growth Triangle. The document states that the environmental value of Racecourse plantation has been questioned. The doubts over the woods' "ecological and arboricultural values" can only have been raised by the landowners, who hope to make millions from developing the woods.
FTW are also concerned about the document's description of Thorpe woodlands as simply "coniferous plantation" and again later as "coniferous commercial with some broad-leaved woodland". Surely the planners ought to know by now that the woodlands are over two thirds semi-natural broadleaved and mixed woodland (which is only increasing), with some isolated areas remaining of conifer plantation.
Thorpe woodlands was understood by it's owners over a decade ago to be a varied and improving habitat, all designated as a County Wildlife Site since 1997. This was confirmed for them in the "Thorpe Estate Forest Plan for 2001-2020'" which was produced for the landowners in 2000 by a forestry consultancy. The description in this present planning draft seems closer to the misleading description of the woods used by the owners at their failed planning Charrette last year.
Members of FTW have requested that, as the final version of this document will form the framework for future decision making, the unqualified statements seeking to minimise the woodlands' value are explained and attributed to those who would profit from them. And, in the case of the woodlands' description, that those points are corrected as they are clearly inaccurate and render the woods more vulnerable than they deserve be.
Also worrying, in the same draft document, is the fourth planning option titled "Urban Extension" (see above with Racecourse wood outlined for clarity).
Under this option, Racecourse plantation - the heart of Thorpe woods and the County Wildlife Site - is zoned for housing development with new roads. This is especially concerning as, by BDC's own criteria, the recognised ecological value of Racecourse should provide strong protection against development.
We wonder what BDC's Conservation Team will have to say about this: last year they told FTW that they had decided they couldn't put a Tree Preservation Order on the woods because: "we don't consider the woods to be under immediate threat from development". Well they are now, under one of BDC's own planning options!
The document containing all these inaccuracies and unattributed challenges to the importance of the woods is only a draft, meaning that there is scope for corrections and changes to be made. FTW will be pressing for such changes. It is vital that BDC's material is as factual and throughly researched as possible before it becomes finalised.
Some very significant new information about the ecological importance of the woods is expected to materialise very soon, which BDC will need to consider carefully before proceeding with their draft framework plan. Keep watching the blog for updates!