'Working for the conservation and preservation of Thorpe's woodlands as a haven for wildlife and a green space for the local community'.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Latest Plans to Build on Thorpe Woods are Nothing New

The Friends of Thorpe Woodlands oppose Socially Conscious Capital's latest plans for the development of Thorpe Woods.

Only 5 months ago Broadland District Council held a public consultation which asked if people supported any development of the woods. This resulted in the largest response ever received with over 2440 people writing in to oppose any development. They were joined by the RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, CPRE and Natural England all of whom called for the woods to be saved in their entirety.

Last week the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission told the Friends that in their view it would be entirely possible for the owners of the woods to allow public access and enhance their wildlife value whilst carrying out commercial felling and coppicing. Examples of this include Foxley and Bacton Woods.

The Friends of Thorpe Woods view the current proposals to develop Thorpe Woods as a PR offensive and in essence they are only recycling plans that have been rejected by the council and local people in the past. The latest approach tries to both bribe and threaten local people but in truth their supposed “creation of the new community woodland” should be viewed as a Trojan Horse. If any houses were given planning permission, it would leave the flood gates open to the land being sold for mass development. It is nonsense to argue that the best way of saving this woodland is to build 700 houses over it, a figure proposed by Socially Conscious Capital at a council meeting only last month. Any level of development would do immense damage to the woods as a whole, a fact supported by a recent Norfolk Wildlife Trust survey which shows that the biodiversity value of the woods is continuing to increase with species such as Great Crested Newts, White Admiral Butterflies, Adders and Glow-worms.

Thorpe Woods are a much loved sanctuary for wildlife that has been enjoyed by many generations. Now more than ever they should be protected so that Norwich continues to be a beautiful place in which to live.

County Councillor for Thorpe St Andrew, Ian Mackie, said "Any plans for housing on this area of immense ecological value will be of real concern to many local residents and is premature.I see little need for this scheme and the plans for an independent trust appears to have little detail behind it, such as who would run it and who could afford to manage a 125 acres of woodland in perpetuity? I've opposed development on this site for 10 years and don't see anything new on offer."

Answering Socially Conscious Capital's misleading assertions

SCC claim- Woodland undeveloped would become an "isolated island of green"
Broadland planning's view- "Thorpe Woodlands is identified as an area of Core Habitat within the Green Infrastructure Study and Delivery Plan and its loss may have significant implications for the achievability of this delivery plan."

SCC claim - Housing would be on the least sensitive area.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust- "Even part development is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the CWS and there would be a need to compensate both for the loss of woodland and for recreational impacts of new housing on the remaining wood."

SCC claim - Not Ancient woodland
In response to the designation of 30 acres of Thorpe Woods as Ancient Woodland the owners commissioned their own expert. This expert found all the important indicator species in the woods but chose not to regard that as evidence of it being Ancient Woodland. Subsequently the owners have sought to diminish the biodiversity value of the woods, however even their own report whilst refuting the Ancient Woodland status does state that the woods contain valuable remnants of wet woodland heath habitat worthy of restoration and protection.

SCC claim- Our plans would give the public what they asked for in the consultation
2444 people responded to the consultation questions 23 and 24 on the future of Thorpe Woodlands, The largest response ever received by Broadland on a single issue. 99% of those responses were opposed to any development of the wood.

SCC claim- No fixed housing numbers at this stage and no extra traffic generation
At the recent Plumstead meeting the figure of 500-700! higher end properties was let slip by Rock Fielding, (The 2010 plan for 630 houses reduced Racecourse CWS, the bulk of Thorpe Woodlands and it's ecological value to a woodland border) Later that year the landowner attempted to push the figure to 800.

SCC claim- Minimum 125 acres of "family friendly" areas
We already have 200 acres of woodland which provide good public access including significant areas of Racecourse, this balanced with an exceptionally valuable site for wildlife and continuity of a mosaic of habitats, including heath, wood pasture and woodland existing over a very long period of time. Norfolk Wildlife Trust believe more public access is possible while maintaining the biodiversity value but even building in part would have significant adverse effects.

SCC claim- Managing and felling would prohibit public access to Thorpe Woods
In response to this The Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Forestry commission have said ""public access is compatible with woodland management. I need only cite the entire Public Forest Estate of England, some 214,000ha managed by the Forestry Commission, which has public access throughout. Public access is only limited when harvesting operations are underway, and then only the felling area is closed to the public, being marked off with warning tape and public notices. As soon as the felled coupe is made safe that work area is again open to the public." Examples of where the Trust also allows public access whilst undertaking felling include Marsham, Buxton, Holt, Cawston and Foxley Wood,

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