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

Monday, 17 March 2014


"Socially Conscious Capital". Rock Fielding-Mellen and his pals must have thought they were onto a winner when they came up with that name.  But like most things that sound too good to be true, so is SCC.

SCC's socially conscious credentials arise from anything but foundations of rock.  Mr Mellen (who prefers to be called Rock Fielding), in his day job as a member of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, has vigorously opposed the London Living Wage, which seeks to guarantee just what it says for the capital’s poorest workers.  Supporters of the Living Wage include Boris Johnson and most London-based MPs, yet Rock couldn't find it in his heart to go along with the concept of paying the poor a bit more.

Rock has recently demonstrated further the depth of his social consciousness by angrily telling the residents of a Scottish village to stop interfering with his family's plans.  The village of Longniddry is on an estate belonging to his family.  Not content with owning the village and surrounding countryside, they want to increase their fortune by building a large housing estate on meadowland.  The villagers understandably made their opposition clear in Rock's 'consultation'. However, despite receiving their clear response, Mellen was reported in the Edinburgh Evening News as saying: "The estate will not be dictated to by the village".

Innocent new arrivals at SCC's website would hardly guess that the main figure behind it had such haughty attitudes.  SCC's site oozes what they must believe to be charm. 
Their first (and only) project is called Racecourse Plantations - their new name for what began as 'Belmore Park' nearly 4 years ago.

Faced with the challenge of selling a thoroughly discredited concept to a savvy local population, SCC have followed in Gail Mayhew's footsteps and sought to divert attention from what they want to do onto what they think people will like.  And so, rather than admit that they want to build as many houses as they can get away with on the woods, in order to make as much money as possible,  they twist the truth inside out, like this:
"At Racecourse Plantations in Thorpe, we want to open up at least 150 acres of privately owned commercial forestry plantations as an accessible, family friendly woodland, recreational resource and haven for wildlife - for the benefit of the community and owned by the community"
What a lovely thing to want to do!  The only catch is: "To achieve this, we are proposing a development on the least sensitive areas of the site, which comprises no more than 25% of the area.  We can now announce that we are proposing a total of 380 quality homes in a woodland setting"

Why do they need to build around £130million worth of houses, you might ask. The reason; so that they can set aside enough money to create such wonderful facilities as visitor centres, shops, cafes, formal and informal play areas, car parks and access roads, and probably even talking fibreglass trees that tell children the names of the birds that used to live there. And none of this comes cheap. 

It is in SCC’s interests to make it seem that a lot of money would need spending to make the remainder of the woods fit for human presence, in order to justify building so many houses.  If they were to admit that all the woods need in order to remain a haven for wildlife and 'family friendly' is improvement to existing paths and perhaps some tree safety work here and there, they'd find it hard to justify building anything: it isn’t as if the owners couldn’t fund such works themselves, out of the profits from sustainable forestry.

This is perhaps the most exasperating aspect of the whole spiel.  SCC (like their predecessors) claim that in order to provide Norwich with continued enjoyment of the woodland they have enjoyed for generations, they need to raise money by building a few hundred houses.  You'd think these people were like the rest of us apart from having through fate found themselves landed with 200 acres of woodland they can't afford to keep.  Anyone who attended the owners' series of exhibitions in 2010 would certainly have thought this, because it is what they told us.  But the truth is very different.

Their family is one of the wealthiest in East Anglia. They own the 5000 acre Walsingham Estate, half a dozen villages and the famous Walsingham Abbey.  They also own, between them, other large woodlands in Norfolk, properties in London, Norwich and abroad.  If SCC's opening claim were true, ie: that they WANT to let the people of Norwich have a beautiful, wildlife-rich woodland with free access in perpetuity, they could simply make it happen.  They would hardly notice the difference on their annual balance sheets.  And they actually would have done something worthy of praise.

But these people want nothing other than to make yet more easy money, and if that means giving some of the woodland to the community in order to secure planning permission for building on part of it, they'll grudgingly do that.  SCC and their fancy PR consultants can twist words as much as they like but it won't alter reality.

Thorpe Woods will not benefit form having hundreds of houses built in them or from the remainder being sanitised. They are a superb ecological asset and will become even more important for their biodiversity as the march of 'progress' covers every field surrounding the city with bricks and tarmac.  Let's not be fooled by Selfish, Crafty Capitalists.

John Allaway 

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely excellent article. SCC clearly think we are really stupid.