Next year will be a key year for the woods as in May or June we expect Broadland District Council to announce their conclusions as to where they believe development should take place within the Growth Triangle. Hopefully they will have listened to the 2440 people who took time to respond to their consultation and stated clearly that they oppose any development within the woods.
Socially Concious Capital, the latest agents for the owners, have in the last two months come forward with plans which they argue will provide a mini Thetford Forest for the people of Thorpe. Once again their plans don't bear close scrutiny. They argue that they will need to build over a large percentage of the woods to allow them to pay for the management of whatever remains. They claim that the relic of the woods that might remain will be preserved by a trust but aren't willing to say who will form the trust or own it. They say that they have no housing numbers in mind but when pushed admit that the area could hold upto 700 houses. This option is not only opposed by us but also by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, CPRE and Natural England.
There is an alternative though, one that the the owners themselves have admitted and one that could work. This is to preserve all 200 acres of this County Wildlife Site and manage it as a proper commercial woodland. This would allow the owners to make a healthy profit from coppicing, felling (all trees felled would by law have to be replanted)and recreation. All of these practices could be carried out in a manner that would protect wildlife and allow public access. This is an option supported by the Friends and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
Currently Thorpe St Andrew Town Council is carrying out a survey of local peoples views about the area as part of their preparation of a new town plan:see here. One of their questions is "Are you in favour of potential residential development in ThorpeWoodlands" in response one of our members has written the following,it probably sums up how many of us think:
I understand the above requires responses from the public re the destruction of Thorpe Woodlands, that is Racecourse, Belmore and Browns Plantations.
As I live adjacent to the woods I feel I have much to lose from any development in this woodland. I awake to the changes it delivers every day. Today the freezing fog has diminished and the rays of sunlight are making the ground steam, last week the wind was throwing big branches in all directions and tomorrow will be different again. I have been witness to a wide range of flora and fauna from stags to squirrels and fungi that defies belief. The woodland is an irreplaceable part of this area and supports such diversity, to ruin it with development would be a travesty and a tragedy. Once it’s gone, it’s gone....................forever
I understand the owners want to develop to make the most money and I don’t blame them. However this woodland could be profitable with replanting and felling as it has in the past. I would like to see the timing of felling chosen to disrupt as little of the wildlife as possible and certain areas protected due to their uniqueness. In other words, responsible practices.
Alternatively if this woodland could become accessible to the public that would be the best option, I do not know how this could be achieved but am aware there is strong opposition locally to any development as I’m sure the council is. Many of us have campaigned to make the neighbourhood aware of the possibilities, having been through the “charette” process and attended many meetings, nothing has changed my mind including the latest bid by SCC to “enlighten” us hicks. The SCC presentation was very poorly put together with minimal information available which allowed them to show “plans” with no numbers (of houses) or roads. Plans look a lot prettier without roads and numbers on and I feel they misled many visitors with that and their charm offensive. None of the team has any local connection and their local knowledge was sketchy at best with local ponds ignored on their diagrams and their inability to properly converse about the woodland, its access points and general information was limited and disappointing.
No doubt next year will bring further challenges for Thorpe Woods and the people who love them, but it also offers the hope of saving them for future generations to enjoy so that they to will be able to walk through these beautiful woods at Christmas with their families and enjoy the woods and wildlife that we treasure so much.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.