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

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Thorpe Woods in 2014 and what to expect in 2015

The last year has been a highly eventful one for the long campaign to save Thorpe Woods.

Broadland District Council issued its statement in the summer on where it wants to locate development in the area called the Growth Triangle, this is in essence the councils local plan. In its statement it clearly ruled out Thorpe Woods as being in anyway suitable for development, reasons for this included the following:

1.There was no need to consider them for development as sufficient land had been identified elsewhere;
2. That the level of damage to this County Wildlife Site and green space would be wholly unacceptable;
3. It ran contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of local people and Councillors.

This statement was a major success for all of use who have campaigned for years against the destructive proposals put forward by the owners of the woods and their agents Socially Conscious Capital which would have lead to the loss of this woodland for all time.

Over the autumn the woods have seen some felling and coppicing, however the well managed working of the woods is something that we support as it can be done in any way that ensures the long term survival of the woods as a refuge for wildlife whilst allowing the owners a reasonable and sustainable income from them.

Nest year will see the progression of the Councils local plan. They have already been formally submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities and  Local Government for independent examination.

The inspector will examine the councils plan and consider any objections to them. We know that the owners of the woods have opposed the councils plans and continue to argue for them to be given permission to build over large areas of the woods, copies of their objections to the councils plan can be seen HERE, in short the threat to Thorpe Woods has not gone away yet.

The council has appointed a programme officer, Mrs Annette Feeney to assist the inspector in the examination process. She is the councils first point of contact if you should have any enquirers regarding the local plan and the inspection, her contact details are:

Mrs Annette Feeney
c/o Spatial Planning
Broadland District Council
Thorpe Lodge
1 Yarmouth Road

We will continue to keep an eye on the progress off the Council's plans and the Inspectors examination and update you on how they are progressing.

2014 was a good year for Thorpe Woods, Broadland District Council firmly stated their opposition to the development of the woods, their support for the woods together with that of groups like the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Norwich Society and CPRE helps to safeguard these woods, however the owners haven't given up yet so in 2015 we will  need to remain vigilante.

Happy New Year to you all

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Forestry work in Thorpe Woods

Many of you will have seen the signs that have gone up around Thorpe Woods in the last few weeks announcing that the owners will be carrying out forestry work.

We have been in contact with the Forestry Commission who have confirmed that the owners have been provided with licences to carry out the following work:

Clear felling of an area covering 12 acres followed by restocking

Selective felling and coppicing of an area covering 33 acres followed by restocking

Thinning of certain areas (removal of Rhododendron etc.).

 All of the work being carried out must fulfill the terms of the forestry licences and none of it in any way alters the fact that Broadland District Council has stated in their recently published Area Action Plan, which sets out where housing development will take place upto 2026, that Thorpe Woods are unsuitable for any development and that the council will oppose any plans for development on this 200 acre County Wildlife Site.

The current work may well change the appearance of the woods but it should be remembered that the owners will need to replant/stock what they fell and that working and managing the woods can help to ensure their long term future as a green space for wildlife.

We will continue to monitor the work being carried out to ensure that it adheres to the terms of the licences issued by the Forestry Commission.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Rock throws a wobbly

Following on from the excellent news that Broadland District Council has excluded Thorpe Woods from their plans for future development “on the grounds of impact on biodiversity” and the “very large number of strong public objection to development” Socially Conscious Capital’s Rock Fielden has decided to have a bit of a tantrum.

Despite the fact that his proposals have been clearly rejected by thousands of local people, Broadland District Council, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Norwich Society etc. Rock still insists that his plans to build  hundreds of unwanted houses over this County Wildlife Site are still on the table. In his press release he states:

"Neither the commercial forestry nor the decision by Broadland District Council over the AAP allocation will prevent us from continuing to promote this proposal."

Unfortunately for Rock nobody else is at that table and nobody is interested in what he is continuing to promote.

Commercial Forestry

In his press release he goes on to say that “we will be continuing commercial forestry…this will centre on 35 acres being thinned/coppiced or selectively felled and another 12 acres, which will be clear felled”.

Obviously Rock hopes that this will be seen as punishment for him not getting what he wanted; the truth is that the Friends and Norfolk Wildlife Trust entirely support the sensible and sensitive management of the woods. Thinning and coppicing are beneficial to the woods and its wildlife, species such as White Admiral butterflies will thrive with the opening up of the tree canopy. 

Over the past 2 years Easton College has carried out coppicing and thinning in Belmore plantation and this has done no harm. As for felling, well under the Forestry Commission licences anything felled must be replanted.

These woods have been commercially managed for generations, people have worked in them for hundreds of years, their existence today is largely due to them being worked in the past. Sensible management of them now can help ensure their survival for generations to come.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Victory for Thorpe campaigners in their long fight to save woods from development

The Eastern Evening News has today published the following article covering the excellent news that Broadland District Council has stated that it is opposed to any development taking place in Thorpe Woods.

Everybody who has supported the campaign to save these woods should be proud of what they have helped to achieve.

The woods will continue to need their friends and the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands will continue to do all they can to ensure these woods are protected so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The 10th July 2014 – a great day for Thorpe Woods and local democracy

4 years ago this month the long battle to save Thorpe Woods from destruction began.

Many of us will never forget the Charette of July 2010, using this charade the owners of Thorpe Woods began their attempt to make a quick buck by building over a much loved woodland and County Wildlife Site. Their central claim then, and over the last 4 years, has been that they can improve a valuable haven for wildlife by building over it.

They brought in Andres Duany and his posse of American architects to try and convince us that by building 800 houses over the woods they would be improving the environment. The Charrette was followed by a packed council meeting on a hot midsummer night. Usually town council meetings attract a handful of local people but on that night over 200 were crammed into the hall; local resident after local resident spoke out against the plans to destroy these woods.

Last year the owners brought in a new hired gun in the form of Socially Conscious Capital, a developer who works on a no win no fee basis. They claimed they only wanted to build on a little bit of the woods, a claim that nobody believed, not even them, how could they when they knew that their profits were dependent of how much of the woods they can develop. In truth Socially Conscious Capital, like the 5 wealthy owners they represent, can only see the woods as an easy way of making yet another million, but 4 years on they have found it to be anything but easy.

Over the last 4 years the people of Thorpe St Andrew and Norwich have repeatedly made clear how much they value these woods, not just for themselves but for their children and for the areas wildlife. They have written 100’s of letters, attended marches, meetings and protests and throughout this they have been joined by their local councillors Ian Mackie, Nigel Shaw and John Fisher who from day one have fought to save these woods.

Last years council consultation on the growth triangle, which addressed the future of the woods, attracted one of the largest responses ever with over 2400 people responding, 99.9% of them calling for the protection of the woods . They were joined by groups such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, Natural England and the Norwich Society all of whom opposed any plans to build on these woods.

Last Thursday Broadland District Council formally stated where it wants to allocate its future housing and development, the council’s statement covers what is described as the Growth Triangle and sets out where housing, schools and businesses should be located up to and beyond 2026. As a result of the hard work, persistence and devotion of the people of Thorpe St Andrew , their councillors and local conservation bodies the council stated clearly that Thorpe Woods is not suitable for development and should be retained as a green space for this and future generations.

The statement identifies the woods as the centre of a series of green infrastructure corridors, it rejects the idea put forward by SCC that in exchange for allowing 100’s of houses to be built on the woods the remnants could possibly be turned into a public park. The statement goes on to identify the woods as “a particularly important area of core habitat, the long term protection of which is central to the enhancement of primary and secondary green infrastructure corridors in the growth triangle” and that although they have been put forward for development they are not deemed an acceptable site due to the ecological impact and landscape sensitivity.

Responding to last year’s consultation the statement recognises the “very large number of strong objections against developing on Thorpe Woodlands” and consequently it states that the woodland “has not been allocated for development. Thorpe Woodlands was discounted as a reasonable alternative, primarily on the grounds of impact on biodiversity of a large scale development and ongoing uncertainty about whether any form of development would be acceptable on similar grounds” “the very large number of strong public objection to development was also taken into account when making this judgement”.

We need to continue to be vigilant about Thorpe woods, last night the council stated clearly that it stands shoulder to shoulder with local people in opposing any development of these woods. The owners may try to come forward with arguments against the councils decision and may even attempt to lodge a planning application contrary to the wishes of the local community and its representatives but this shouldn't detract from the fact that the 10th of July was a great day for local democracy and for Thorpe Woods and hopefully as a result these woods have a long future, and that future is thanks to you.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

What is 50 acres?

Socially conscious capital claim that they only want to build over 50 acres of Thorpe Woods, but this would mean the loss of a very large area of woodland, an area twice the size of Lion Wood would be lost forever.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a moving picture even more, so please click on the picture to watch the video and see what would be lost.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Norfolk Wildlife Trusts Statement Opposing the Latest Proposals for Developing Thorpe Woods

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk's most important conservation body, has just issued the following statement in relation to the latest proposals from Socially Concious Capital, the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands entirely support the NWT's position.

Monday, 10 March 2014

NO to any development on Thorpe Woods

Last week Socially Conscious Capital came forward with a series of new pledges and statements in relation to their plans to build over large areas of Thorpe Woods.

They claim that they would give 150 acres of woodland to the community if they are allowed to build over at least 50 acres of this much loved wood, however when pushed they are unwilling to agree to any legally binding covenants that would provide the woods with long-term protection.

The Friends recognise the need for new housing but believe that BDC have identified sufficient land in the rest of the Growth Triangle to cater for that need. No one would gain from building on this beautiful woodland apart from the 5 owners.

There is an alternative to development, this is the sensitive commercial management of these woods which would preserve them in their entirety whilst allowing the owners to make a decent profit. This approach would allow the public to access the woods as a much needed green-space whilst preserving and enhancing them as a haven for wildlife.

We are supported in the above approach by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, CPRE and the Norwich Society. Natural England has also made clear that their preference would be for the entirety of the woods to be spared from development. We are also supported by our local Councillors Ian Mackie and Nigel Shaw and by a number of local town councils.

Our last blog post we set out details of the statements of support we have received from the above bodies, many of these have been reiterated in the last few days in response to SCC's latest proposals.

We believe that the latest set of pledges are a trojan horse for the owners to develop Thorpe Woods and that SCC are only making these as they know that the argument for Thorpe Woods is moving against them and that time is running out for them to make a quick buck out of these woods.

Broadland District Council is due to issue its preference for where development should and shouldn't take place in the growth triangle this May, we hope that their decision will reflect the views of the 1000's of local people and conservation bodies who have made clear that they want Thorpe Woods to be preserved in their entirety as a green-space for people and wildlife.

The next few weeks are therefore a key moment for Thorpe Woods, you can help to ensure that these woods are saved by contacting your local councillor to make it clear that you don't want a single acre of these beautiful woods to be lost to development.

Click HERE to find out who to contact, your email could make all the difference

Friday, 28 February 2014

Socially Conscious Capital’s Latest version of the truth.

In the last few days Socially Conscious Capital (SCC) have re-emerged with further claims which they hope will advance their aim of making a quick buck from Thorpe Woods by developing an unwanted and unnecessary housing estate over large areas of this much loved County Wildlife Site.

Last November they tried to convince us that the best way of preserving and protecting this wood was for them to be allowed to build over many acres of if (see Latest Plans to Build on Thorpe Woods are Nothing New),however it is hard to convince people that such a proposal can be anything other than nonsense when your plans are opposed not only by the overwhelming majority of local people, as demonstrated in the record breaking response to Broadland District Councils consultation in which 99% (2440 people) opposed any development, but also by local councillors and conservation bodies such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Campaign to protect Rural England, Natural England and The Norwich Society.

Therefore SCC’s latest ploy is to suggest that some of these bodies have now seen the light and don’t oppose their plans.

SCC  misleadingly claim on their website that Natural England “have not opposed our proposals”. In fact, SCC even suggest that Natural England thinks they may be a “good start”. Happily the truth is that Natural England has made clear their position as set out in their most recent formal statement:

Natural England ‘s Response - Thorpe Woodlands is identified as a County Wildlife Site and Ancient Woodland (within its north eastern quarter). Recent survey work undertaken by Norfolk Wildlife Trust indicates that the site continues to meet the County Wildlife Site criteria and is a valuable site locally…... In conclusion Natural England supports the identification of Thorpe Woodlands as an area of multi functional open space for wildlife and recreation. It should not be taken forward as a development allocation in the AAP.

On the 26th February we spoke to Natural England who have confirmed that they continue to stand by the above statement and have written a “strongly worded letter” to SCC in respect of the edited comments attributed to Natural England on SCC’s website. We understand that SCC have now agreed to Natural England's request for these statements to be removed.

SCC also seems to suggest that The Norwich Society is thawing; once again the truth is very different as there position is made clear in the following statement:

The Norwich Society Question Response: I am vice chairman of the Norwich Society and Chairman of the Norwich Society's Environmental Committee. I am of the opinion that Thorpe Woodlands are not suitable for residential development (and this is the unanimous view of the Environmental Committee as well.
We have also been in touch with the Chair of the Norwich Society who this week was happy to confirm that they continue to support the protection of the woods in their entirety and provided us with a copy of a letter they had sent to the Chairman of Broadlands Planning committee which states:

The Trustees of the Norwich Society join me to express their deep concern about plans to build new housing on the three pieces of woodland known collectively as Thorpe Woodlands. As a society, we feel it is more appropriate to write a full letter than to sign an on-line petition…They are popular quiet, green areas close to dense population. It is essential that this green lung remains to refresh the citizens of surrounding Thorpe, Thorpe End and Dussindale. It should be an oasis in the proposed development Growth Triangle of north-east Norwich.Any roads should be carefully planned to skirt all three woods.

Last but not least they also suggest that Norfolk County Council’s Green Infrastructure Co-ordinator Dr David White is also sympathetic to the idea of building a housing estate on a County Wildlife Site. He apparently thinks there may be” a case could be made for permitting some development to facilitate the long-term recreational use of the remaining parts of the site”. This quote is drawn from a report issued by Dr White at the end of last year, a report in which he in fact concludes that:


4.1 Having scrutinised the submitted documents and the other available information, I conclude that large-scale housing development in the Thorpe Woodlands would not be appropriate as the ecological impacts would be too great. However without detail on proposed housing numbers/area, I remain to be convinced that some small-scale housing would be appropriate either. This is based on:

• the ecological value of the site (CWS standard) and importance of the site for ecological connectivity;
• the fact that developing on a CWS would be contrary to local and national policy and that there would be a real danger of undermining the CWS system that has been so beneficial in protecting the most important wildlife sites in a county context;
• the question as to if it would actually be physically possible to compensate for the loss of ecological connectivity in any meaningful way (as opposed to compensation for loss of, or adverse impacts on, within-site habitats); and
• the uncertainty of the benefits of using the approach of building some houses to secure informal public access when other options with potentially fewer adverse impacts seem to be available and could be explored in greater detail.
4.2 The benefit of having the site for public access in the Growth Triangle is obvious, but at this stage and based on the documents submitted, I would hesitate to conclude that building on part of the site is the best way of addressing this.

So despite SCC best efforts the truth is that in addition to the 2440 local people who opposed any development the:

Norfolk Wildlife Trust states that: “In our view Racecourse Plantation and Belmore and Browns Plantations should be retained in their entirety as key biodiversity assets and part of the critical natural capital, within the growth triangle and no part of this woodland should be zoned for development”.

The RSPB’s view is” that Thorpe Woodlands should be retained as open space and as a key area in the Growth Triangle’s green infrastructure provision. We are surprised that housing development is even being considered for this site”.

CPRE Norfolk” supports the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands and their campaign to protect Racecourse Plantation, and adjacent woodland from development”.

Dr David White Norfolk County council concludes “that large-scale housing development in the Thorpe Woodlands would not be appropriate as the ecological impacts would be too great. However without detail on proposed housing numbers/area, I remain to be convinced that some small-scale housing would be appropriate either”.

The Norwich Society is” of the opinion that Thorpe Woodlands are not suitable for residential development”

So it appears that rather than Natural England and other bodies seeing the benefits of building over a much loved woodland County Wildlife Site they are in fact as opposed to it as ever and like the local people who love it realise the importance of preserving it for future generations.