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.