Saturday, 22 December 2012
Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Sorry Led Zeppelin fans, Rock FM isn't a new radio station, but an oddly named fellow who has been accompanying Gail Mayhew to GNDP meetings recently. Gail gets everywhere (or at least tries to), and manages to ingratiate herself with members of just about every committee that has anything to do with the North East Norwich Growth Triangle. Her efforts aren't really surprising, in view of the fact that her family own not only Thorpe's woods but most of Sprowston's too, as well as many hundreds more acres of land in the Triangle.
But I digress - the surprising extent of the Mayhew / Meath-Baker families' landholdings will be the subject of another article. The point of this article is to introduce you all to Rock Basil Hugo Fielding-Mellen, or Rock FM for short. Rock really is his first name, but he prefers to drop most of the rest of it when it seems expedient to appear ordinary: Rock Fielding is how he's signed himself in to the meetings he's attended with Gail. Both have put themselves down as representatives of the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust (the most recent being a meeting at County Hall in June, to discuss "Green Infrastructure Maintenance").
Rock's mother is Amanda, Countess of Wemyss and March. Rock's ancestors include the Earl of Denbigh and the Marquess of Bath. Rock is posh, just like 'Barney' Mayhew and Justin (Meath-)Baker. And like them, he seems to want to portray himself as just an ordinary person when it suits his interests. Not only is he posh, with all the family wealth and influence that goes with poshhood, and not only is he a key figure in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, he is also the founding director of Socially Conscious Capital and Socially Conscious Capital (Norwich).
"Socially Conscious Capital". Sounds intriguing but whatever could it mean? Helpfully, Rock and his pals have provided a website to explain exactly what it means (http://www.sociallyconsciouscapital.co.uk/). SCC is a company run from Rock's mum's house on Chelsea Embankment - in common with several other oddly named businesses, none of which seem to do much business, if any. Rock apparently likes dabbling in entrepreneurial enterprises but rarely seems to get much further than setting a company up, appointing a few mates as directors and then waiting for things to happen. SCC is pretty new, so maybe this one will break the mould?
They've certainly got themselves a nice looking website, which tells us, among other things, that "we are very selective about the projects we take on" - (so selective they haven't taken on any yet - or have they?)
The explanation continues: "Our key criteria for taking on a new project include: the site itself must have sufficient natural advantages to make a high quality new developemnt feasible" - well, Thorpe's woods have plenty of natural advantages but they make any kind of developemt completely unfeasible.
Furthermore, the website specifies: "The landowner must be willing and able to take a longer term view with regards to maximising the value of the site" - T&FT have no problem fulfilling that criterion, they've been trying to get permission to build all over the woods for over ten years and show no sign of losing interest.
Perhaps most interestingly, SCC's website states: "We are not shy of taking on sites with problems and obstacles, or sites that have a history of unsuccessful promotion" Hmm, so the upstart SCC, with all of Rock FM's massive lack of business experience behind it, thinks its very frst project can succeed where Andres Duany, DPZ and the Matrix Partnership failed?
SCC Norwich is even newer than SCC. There is no website or any other information on SCC Norwich, other than the companies house record that it was founded in February 2012. It doesn't look like a subsidiary of SCC, but more like a whole new partnership. Rock's partners in SCC are his mum, his stepdad and a couple of mates from Eton/Harrow or wherever. But his partner in SCC Norwich is one Giles Cherry, a London-based property developer and private landlord. In the absence of any published information we can only assume that Gail has long been acquainted with Rock from her own days at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, and is turning to his experimental company as a bit of a last resort. Whether it is the original SCC, or the Norwich offshoot, that is now working for the T&FT we can only guess: it seems probable that the Norwich offshoot was created especially to cater for Gail's family's 'needs'.
It makes little difference either way. However fancy SCC's / SCC Norwich's corporate gloss, facts are facts, and they'll soon come up against some pretty insurmountable ones where Thorpe's woods are concerned. If only it were true that these woods are nothing more than miserable, ecologically barren conifer plantations - life for the aspiring development consultant would be so much easier.
There's a lot more to be said on Rock FM and Socially Conscious Capital, but - as is the case with what's to be said on Gail's family's land-holdings around Norwich - that will have to wait for another time.
Friday, 13 July 2012
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. The lies that were told about the woods - which originally took quite a few people in, including some local authority officers - were long ago exposed for what they were. Everybody in the Norwich area now knows that Thorpe's woods are excellent wildlife habitats and diverse, mainly broadleaved woodlands - not the disease-ridden, overgrown Christmas tree crops of such little use or ornament that putting them out of their misery would be performing a public service.
People also know now that there's no reason to pity the plight of the Mayhews and Meath-Bakers. Contrary to the impression they strove to convey they are not just like the rest of us - hard working ordinary folks who need to tighten their belts in these tough economic times - but are genuine toffs with huge land-holdings and bags of dosh. There is no doubt that they could afford to keep Thorpe's woods, and even spend money on conserving them (as they told us they would love to do), without any noticeable effect on their bank accounts.
Two years on, the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust is now on its third firm of development consultants. First they spent a fortune on Andres Duany of DPZ. When the hoped-for Duany golden touch fell flat (deflated by inconvenient truths), T&FT hired the Matrix Partnership. Matrix drew up a different development concept (we published pictures on this blog). Matrix's concept shifted things around a bit but failed completely to address the fundamental flaw in the scheme, ie: that it involved flattening a wood!
Now it seems as if Matrix has followed DPZ into the recycling bin, to be replaced by the lovely sounding Socially Conscious Capital. Socially Conscious Capital's improbably named head has been attending local authority meetings in Norwich under the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust banner, accompanying Gail Mayhew.
As the cynical among you might expect, Socially Conscious Capital isn't quite the philanthropic, kindly organisation its name suggests. SCC has an interesting business history and its head has a name to rival Clovis Meath-Baker's in the poshness/oddness stakes. But you'll have to wait until next time to learn more (unless you want to do a bit of Googling). Watch this space!
Friday, 6 July 2012
Now we know that Henry Mayhew, husband of the locally notorious Gail Mayhew (see 'Meet The Mayhews' and 'Gail Warning' on this blog for much more info on who's who within the T&FT) has become so disenchanted with life as a London based mega-capitalist that he's given it all up for a hut in the woods.
The Secret History Of Our Streets, broadcast on BBC2 on 3rd July 2012 (available on BBCiplayer until 18th July and well worth watching) traced the evolution of Portland Street in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea from 1950s slummy bedsit-land to its 21st century shockingly expensive and ultra fashionable location for London's idle rich. Past and present residents were interviewed, among whom were Henry Mayhew who was happy to recount to an audience of millions how he had only come to own his house because "my wife made me buy it". He went on to explain that Gail (whose name he avoided mentioning) made him buy it because she thought it would be a good investment. She was, Henry stated with a commendable lack of visible bitterness, right as always.
Henry was obviously far from happy with his lot. The idea of living in an 'investment' had clearly become absurd to him and he craved something more meaningful. Portland Street, Henry told us, was deathly boring, inhabited only by investment bankers who had grabbed the taxpayers' cash doled out to them by a stupid government - supposedly intended for lending to small businesses - and spent it all on their trendy houses. I got the feeling that Henry really had experienced an epiphany. Social justice and ecological sustainability go hand in hand and - as Henry seemed to have realised - any attempt to separate them ultimately comes to nothing.
Rather like Reggie Perrin, Henry knows in his heart, I feel, that what is right is for the remaining woods and forests of this world is to be left alone, not turned into housing estates. Maybe it is as obvious to Henry as it is to us that the latter way spells madness. You might get half a century or so of apparent 'benefit' from 'developing' every available space, but time will inevitably catch up and the destruction of nature - of which building on Racecourse Plantation would be a very significant part - will cause our grandchildren to weep.
While Henry moved into his converted shipping container somewhere in a Felthorpe forestry plantation, Gail moved into a nice house in Norwich's exclusive Cathedral Close. Gail remains as zealous as ever in her quest for profitable development.
Look out on this blog for more news on recent developments. There have been several, but due to such mundane things as serious medical conditions (now fully sorted thanks to the ever brilliant NHS) and tedious details such as the work we ordinary mortals who haven't got enormous legacies to tap in to need to do, it may take a day or two to get these published.
Thursday, 26 April 2012
But there are still people on this Earth whose very existence depends completely on the forest. Right now, as you're reading this, the Awa people of Maranhao State in Brazil are facing genocide because of the greed of a few people for their forest. Logging companies (where did your furniture, front door or bit of plywood come from?), mining companies (where did the metal in your car or your tin of beans come from?) and cattle ranchers (very cheap, that Brazilian beef) are systematically destroying the Awa's forest, where they have lived for thousands of years.
It will tell you what you can do to register your disgust at the way the Brazilian authorities are failing to stop this genocide.
Friday, 24 February 2012
After many weeks of careful consideration of all the evidence presented by both sides, the judge has ruled that the GNDP's JCS was unlawful, principally because it failed to properly consider, or consult the public on, alternatives to the 37000 new houses (plus a large amount of industrial and commercial development) they deemed essential in the 'Greater Norwich' area.
The GNDP is made up of four Local Authorities (LAs), ie: Broadland District Council (BDC); Norwich City Council (NCC), South Norfolk District Council (SNDC) Norfolk County Council (NorCC), as well as the Broads Authority (BA), which isn't technically a LA.
A key element in the JCS is the North East Norwich Growth Triangle
(NENGT, or just GT for short). The GT is, essentially, the reason for the threat to Thorpe Woods. For reasons which remain unclear, BDC decided to include the Thorpe Woods in the GT at the earliest stages of the GNDP's JCS. Inclusion of Thorpe Woods within the GT has been questioned by the BDC council members for Thorpe at council meetings, as well as by us at Friends of Thorpe Woodlands (FTW), but the answers have been disappointingly opaque.
In BDC's Local Plan (LP), which was ratified in 2006, the settlement limit of Thorpe (ie: the boundary within which devlopment would be considered acceptable) was drawn so that it clearly excluded the woods. However, when the GT was defined, the woods were included. This gave the landowners (the Mayhew and Meath-Baker families, aka the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust (T&FT)) a golden opportunity to put 'their' woods
forward for development. Opposing development has consequently been made much more difficult for the huge majority of people who believe that destroying 200 acres of beautiful and ecologically rich woodland is as unthinkable as it sounds.
Now that the whole JCS has been deemed unlawful, we hope that a complete rethink is on the cards. A further legal hearing will take place on Wednesday 29th February, at which the judge will decide what action the GNDP needs to take to remedy the situation. He could decide that the whole JCS needs to be scrapped and started again from scratch, or he could decide that the councils involved need to modify it in various ways in order to make it lawful. There is no way of knowing in advance what the judge will decide, but we do already know that his ruling of unlawfulness was not based on some minor technicality, but on the fundamental principle that alternatives should have been fully considered and consulted on: the fact that this did not happen must mean that, at the very least, further consultation will be called for.
Possibly the best outcome, where Thorpe Woods
are concerned, is for the JCS to be rejected. If this happens, the BDC Local Plan would remain in force until the whole JCS is re-worked. In this eventuality, the situation will be that the woods remain outside the settlement limit and are therefore effectively out of bounds to developers.
Keep a close eye on the news on Wednesday to see what the implications are for BDC and the other councils. The SNUB website and blog are sure to have detailed updates on what's happening and what it all means: you can visit SNUB's blog at: http://snubcampaign.blogspot.com/
This legal ruling comes in the same week
that Wymondham Town Council finally backed down, in the face of overwhelming public pressure, from their frankly incredible scheme to sell Kings Head Meadow to ASDA (ASssociated DAiries) for a giant supermarket. Nobody in Wymondham wanted to lose their meadow, or to jeopardise the future for the many local, family-run shops in the town, yet their elected councillors hatched the deal to flog the site to ASDA regardless. Congratulations are due to Wymondham Asks Why (WAW) as well as to SNUB, both of which campaign groups have shown that people power, when well organised and based upon sound facts and good reason, can and does prevail.
Apologies for All the Acronyms Gathered Here (AAAGH)!
Monday, 23 January 2012
Comment by Sid Norton on Iwitness24 after his first visit to Thorpe Woods.
I have heard so much about Thorpe Woods and the plans to build in there, I thought I would take a look for myself today and after spending several hours exploring the area, I can only say it would be an absolute travesty if one single house was allowed to be built in these woods. As an amateur naturalist it is quite obvious that these woods are not only beautiful but are rich in wildlife especially the bird population, which I would go as far to say that it could be unrivalled in Norfolk, now that’s a bold statement, isn’t it? Now building on arable land is bad enough, but building in woodland is a serious no, no and should never be allowed to happen as we will all be so much poorer if these unscrupulous developers and land owners are ever allowed to get their way. It’s such a pity one of our wildlife trusts, perhaps Norfolk Wildlife Trust don’t considering raising money and purchasing this land for the benefit of all. I for one would have no hesitation if giving money to what would be an extremely worthy cause. What do you think?