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

The Owners

Thorpe's woodlands are owned by the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, the Trustees of which are five of the grand-children of John Gurney MP, who died in 2000. We had the pleasure of meeting three of the Trustees during their 'charette' last July. Barney Mayhew and Justin Meath-Baker addressed the Thorpe Town Council meeting. Justin also made himself available for questions at the charette drop-in sessions, as did Gail Mayhew (who is not a trustee but is married to Henry Mayhew). Jerome Mayhew introduced the charette's final presentation.

John Gurney had eight grand-children. We don't yet know which of the others are the remaining Trustees, but we now know quite a lot about some of them, thanks to information from other groups campaigning against various Mayhew money-making schemes.

At the charette meetings, the Trustees gave the impression of being quite ordinary people. Certainly, their appearance and manner of speech scarcely hinted at any lofty social status. One Trustee actually seemed quite offended at the suggestion that they didn't need to make money from the woods as they were already rich. But any impression of ordinariness was just that. The Mayhews and Meath-Bakers aren't merely a bit well-off - they are genuine upper class landed gentry. And at least some have fingers in other lucrative pies involving exploitation of woodlands.

The Mayhew's father is Baron Mayhew of Twysden (a.k.a. Patrick Mayhew, a former big-wig in the Thatcher & Major cabinets). The Hon. James Barnabas Burke Mayhew (a.k.a. 'Barney') is a barrister now practising as a 'security' advisor to foreign aid agencies. Henry Edmund Burke Mayhew lives in a nice house in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea with his wife Gail, owns a business consultancy and stood as a UKIP candidate in the 2005 general election. Jerome Patrick Burke Mayhew and his brother Tristram Thomas Burke Mayhew are owners of Go Ape, a company that builds 'adventure' courses in woods and forests.
Samuel Justin Francis Meath-Baker (ie: Justin Meath-Baker) said at the charette that he was an interior designer, but he is no mere wallpaper salesman - Justin has offices in Mayfair and a shop in Covent Garden, and designs interiors for the likes of Christies boardroom, exclusive London clubs and top-class hotels. When an empty property next door to his five bedroom London house started lowering the tone, his preferred solution was to simply buy it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/movinghouse/3324151/Trouble-next-door.html
William John Clovis Meath-Baker owns Walsingham Abbey and is an ex-diplomat and MI6 officer. We currently know little about Hugh Lysander Meath-Baker (honestly, I'm not making these names up!) and Joshua Ralph Meath-Baker, but it seems safe to assume neither are busking for a living. Details on each family can be seen here: http://lackfamily.net/genealogy/names/whole%20family/f731.html#f990 and http://lackfamily.net/genealogy/names/whole%20family/f204.html#f956

Jerome & Tristram's Go Ape business is interesting. Go Ape has a very close relationship with the Forestry Commission, with which the Mayhews have sealed a deal that effectively allows them to put forward Go Ape schemes in every Forestry Commission woodland in Britain: http://www.moneyweek.com/news-and-charts/tristram-mayhew-how-i-shook-1m-from-the-money-tree-43538.aspx They are already raking in millions from 22 Go Ape courses but they have ambitions to expand to 40 by 2012 and to set themselves up in USA and Australia.
In Wales, the Mayhews want to build what they're calling a 'Zip Wild' Go Ape course on Moel Famau, a beautiful, unspoilt forested mountain that is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Friends of Moel Famau are campaigning as hard as they can against this scheme, and have even been to meet the Mayhews, only to find them unmoved by their pleas to leave their wonderful countryside alone. See this link for more info: http://moelfamau.com/ Interestingly, the Mayhews have produced a website to promote their scheme here: http://moelfammau.openforum.zipwild.com/about-zip-wild.asp Note the swathe of missing woodland beneath the zipping girl; the mis-spelling of Moel Famau, and - most amusingly - the section headed: 'And our values?' Uncannily similar to the worthy-seeming platitudes they lavished on us at their charette.

The Mayhews' ambitions have led them beyond Forestry Commission land into public parks. Near Liverpool, Lever Park has been a tranquil wooded landscape for all to enjoy for 100 years. This hasn't stopped the Mayhews transforming it with a Go Ape course. The promise of a slice of the money-pie lured the local council on-side and they began work on the course, illegally felling trees (until they were stopped) and causing outrage among the local community - whom the council had failed to consult! The outraged organised themselves into The Friends of Lever Park: http://www.leverpark.co.uk/ whose complaint to the local government ombudsman was upheld: the council were found to have been guilty of maladminsitration on several counts. The Mayhews employed their usual formula for presenting their schemes to the public: nature conservation was, they said, uppermost in their concerns, and their scheme would benefit the environment, avoid any damage to trees and provide deprived urban-dwellers with a unique opportunity to enjoy the natural world. FLP pointed out that - even if they were to overlook their felling of trees without even waiting for permission - their courses entail banging numerous six-inch nails into trees which probably isn't good for them, create lots of noise, attract excessive traffic and - at £25 upward for a go on the course - are way out of the range of kids from deprived areas.

In Glasgow, a public park that was gifted to the city nearly a century ago was only saved at the last moment by a unique Scottish law called "Common Good". Friends of Pollok Park fought a long battle against the Mayhews and - to their shame - their own city council against a Go Ape in North Wood, an ancient area of the Park much loved by local people. The Mayhews said: "We will work with the local community to address any concerns they may have" - again, sounds rather like what they've told us at Thorpe, doesn't it? And like Thorpe, they addressed the barrage of concerns that flooded in by completely ignoring them. We can't give a link to Save Pollok Park because they closed their website last year, having won their campaign. Nor can we give a link to Save Thorndon Park as this campaign, in Essex, also succeeded in thwarting the Mayhews. Here, the presence of great crested newts in harm's way, and an objection from Natural England, derailed the scheme.

The Mayhews' Australian venture also turned into an embarrassing defeat. They had decided that a Go Ape course would be nice in Bidjigal Reserve - a fantastic primeval forest on rocky outcrops just outside Sydney. Local campaigners thought otherwise, as did the Oz equivalent of Natural England and many eminent ecologists. Again, the promise of a piece of the cash-cake seems to have seduced the council, which failed in its job of standing up for one of the most important nature reserves in that part of Australia. If it hadn't been for the huge efforts of Save Bidjigal Reserve: http: //savebidjigalreserve.net/ together with the Aboriginal people (whose land it is anyway!) the peace and beauty of Bidjigal would have been lost. Yet again, the Mayhews told everyone that they only wanted to bring much needed facilities, economic benefits and environmental respect to the area.

The examples above show several things of interest to us in Norwich. They show that the people we're up against have plenty of experience in trying to push environmentally damaging schemes through regardless of local opposition. They show that they have a carefully crafted formula to work to, involving skilful persuasion to entice people into believing they wouldn't harm a fly. They show that they are immune to appeals for reason or recognition of the obvious. And they show that they are very good at getting local authorities on board.
However, these examples also show that they can be defeated and - when the opposition is sufficiently well informed and organised - often are. We should take heart that - so far at least - they have not succeeded in securing any support from Broadland District Council. As far as we are able to know, BDC's councillors and officers are not inclined to support their scheme, and are well aware of the scale of opposition locally.
 It is up to all who care about our woods to let BDC know that we want them kept free from development.

No comments:

Post a Comment