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)!