Photographs of Thorpe woodlands, their varied habitats, plantlife and wildlife all taken by friends and supporters. most taken between 2010 and 2013

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Rock's Roadshow hits town

A whole set of fresh (well, different) faces, but behind the plastic smiles and the new graphics lie the same old story. With added gloss this time, and at a community centre near you (if you live near Thorpe). Rock Mellen has assembled a large team of 'experts', all of whom have been well trained in the art of insincerity, it seems. The Mayhews and Meath-Bakers who own the woods are throwing money at it: Rock's team at the laughably-named Socially Conscious Capital is already five-strong, and they don't work for nothing. SCC has engaged one of the country's leading forestry consultants, Lockhart Garratt, whose director John Lockhart personally attended the roadshow's recent Thorpe debut. As did Duncan Painter, of Applied Ecology - a high-flying firm of ecologists which specialises in big developments. Then there is Turley Associates who describe themselves as planning consultants, but it seems that in this context, they are acting more as PR consultants. Then there is John Simpson Architects, an expensive London firm. Also on the payroll are Create consulting engineers, a Norwich based company. We don't know whether Gail mayhew still plays any part in things, but some of the text on SCC's website and their exhibition panels looks very Gail-esque.
Rock Fielding of Socially Conscious Capital
The Team unveiled their super-duper new exhibition for the first time on 9th November at Thorpe St Andrew and Thorpe End. They have clearly thrown loads of money at this too, and some of it has stuck: the entire exhibition is almost viscid with PR slime, proffering weasel-words in pretty typefaces. Images of happy children skipping along autumn leaf-strewn woodland paths abound. It could easily be a Disney production. Here are a few highlights:

"This new proposal marks a complete change from that previously put forward by others". Well, is that a fact? Actually, no! This new proposal actually marks more of the same. A re-run of the same old nonsense about how building on 75 acres of the woodland (that's equivalent to a large chunk of Dussindale) would "Protect and enhance the ecological value of the woods", and relying, just as before, on presenting the scheme not as what it is - ie: an attempt to get permission to make millions from development - but as sincere initiative aimed at providing local people with a lovely park.
It would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that these people seem willing to pump whatever cash it takes into getting their way. They seem to imagine that if they repeat the same things often enough, people will start to believe them. There are a few differences this time round though. The most significant is that SCC have inadvertently proved something that we at FTW have been saying all along: that there is a perfectly good alternative to development. Their forestry consultants, Lockhart Garratt, prepared a detailed assessment of woodland management as an alternative option to development, and it is actually very good. However Rock and his West End pals must have thought it sounded terribly destructive and took it for granted that the public would feel similarly. And so SCC, instead of shoving the forestry option under the carpet where nobody would find it, have drawn attention to it, hoping it would shock people into supporting their development option. Just in case people weren't as repelled by the forestry option as they hoped, they produced a special map showing the whole site coloured either red or orange, the accompanying key implying all of this would be clear felled and thinned (see below)
But closer study of LG's forestry assessment reveals the map below, showing what kinds of management would take place up to 2030.
This looks a lot less scary. In fact, it looks pretty good. And when the full report is read alongside it, it becomes clear that what SCC are calling the "Forestry Option" would mean that there would be genuine improvements in woodland quality and wildlife habitat quality, with the whole woodland area turned into broadleaved, semi-natural coppice with standards woodland within 20 years.
One of many things SCC's presentation avoids mentioning is that any forestry management would have to comply with UK Forestry Standards and be fully approved and monitored by the Forestry Commission.

SCC seem to have been thoroughly taken aback by FTW's support for their Forestry Option. At their roadshow in Thorpe, they tried their hardest to ignore it as if hoping it would go away, but whenever anyone picked them up upon it, they resorted to portraying it as a terrible prospect: "they would have to bar public access for safety reasons", "there would be 55 acres of trees felled by 2023" and, most importantly, if the forestry option were adopted, "the woods would always remain at threat from developers". This of course meaning at threat from their clients, the landowners who apparently reject the prospect of a reasonable income from sustainable forestry. 

We will publish more information on the Forestry Option and what it means over the next few weeks.

Rock's Roadshow goes north of the border for attack on Edinburgh Greenbelt

Click image or text link below image to see live Edinburgh News page
Pictured: Colin Kemp, spokesman for local residents group 'Listen to Longniddry'.
SCC held a meeting at which 300 local residents attended. When the development plans were criticised Rock responded to local residents by telling them, “The estate will not be dictated to by the village.”

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Thorpe Woodlands development proposed again against overwhelming advice and opinion

Socially Conscious Capital, the latest firm to be tasked with selling development on Thorpe Woodlands have officially revealed their plans, another attempt by the landowners to profit from building on the City edge County Wildlife Site. Again their plan focuses on Racecourse wood, the largest and most bio diverse habitat. SCC's website arrogantly proclaims "Welcome to the Racecourses" and goes on to say that they wish to provide a new 'Community Woodland' with quality housing. "An imaginative proposal to create over 125 acres of family friendly, publicly accessible woodland park"

The Thorpe Woodlands we have is over 200 acres and already provides recreation and a locally exceptional habitat for wildlife, it hardly seems imaginative to reduce that to 125 acres by building on the other 75.
Rock Fielding-Mellen speaking for SCC confidently says his preferred development option will give people what they want, this despite a record response opposing any development on Thorpe woodlands in the recent Broadland Public Consultation. 2440 responses almost all totally opposed to any loss of the woodlands.

Socially Conscious Capital are completely ignoring this and total opposition from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, CPRE and Natural England in campaigning for development. 
It is likely that they hope to gain momentum for their Building option by side stepping the local planning process already underway, hoping to put pressure on local councillors and planners who will decide whether the Woodlands are excluded or included in the development area.   

Socially Conscious Capital's very green looking plan for housing 
on Thorpe Woodlands as it appeared in the press.

The plans as they appear on SCC's website.
(Figures as high as 700 higher end properties have been mentioned) 

Our clarification of what their '50 shades of green' map actually means

A plan on show at SCC's presentation 8th Nov. Showing a much larger area of housing and much more of Racecourse CWS gone. I was told it was out of date and that no numbers have been set.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust completely oppose these development plans
"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".  

Socially Conscious Capital's 'imaginative' plan for housing in a County Wildlife Site woodland.

Fielding-Mellen, Kensington Councillor and managing director of London based company SCC, said: “Recent ecological studies have confirmed that the ecological value and biodiversity of the site have diminished over the last 10 years, and will continue to do so without active management and investment. It is also the case that the majority of the woods are overgrown and inaccessible to local people". All of this is totally at odds with NWT studies and the experience of local people who regularly walk there.

Seemingly as a threat if development is not accepted, Rock has also presented option 2, a forestry option for Thorpe Woodlands. This return to commercial forestry, so Rock has been keen to emphasise in what seems to be a thinly veiled threat, would result in a reduction in public access. Again this is misleading.
Only 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, areas of work are taped off with signs warning the public of the work in progress, a wood never needs closing to the public.

Friends of Thorpe Woodland welcome SCC's Forestry Option

Friends of Thorpe Woodlands welcome this option which would retain the woodlands as a whole and make a reasonable and sustainable profit for the landowner. If forestry is carried out responsibly as the UK Forestry Standard (which the Forestry Commission would insist upon before granting felling licences) would demand, this would retain and improve the ecology of the woodlands and provide for public recreation. Ironically we called for this in our very first blog over three years ago.
(link to that blog)
Within the growth triangle not one house needs to be built on woodland, let alone such an exceptionally valuable site for wildlife and the local community. As Broadland District Council states: Thorpe Woodlands are a core site for bio diversity and a key link in our green infrastructure strategy.

Racecourse's rich ecosystem has thrived without management other than timber extraction (profitable for the owners) since before 2000. It's a ridiculous idea, or maybe just "imaginative" to suggest that building hundreds of houses with roads, car parks and parks across it will somehow save this woodland and nature from itself and improve a mosaic of habitats,  the existence of which they are so busy trying to downplay.

As we did 3 years ago we appeal to all to reject the completely unnecessary building plans and welcome the Forestry Option. This would be a sustainable future for this beautiful and historic woodland, an income for the landowners and a valuable woodland resource saved for Norwich and its people.

(In the Broadland Consultation 2440 responses were received on the Thorpe Woodlands questions, Broadland's largest ever response on a single issue. Over 99% of those 2440 were totally opposed to any building on Thorpe Woodlands)

Saturday, 13 July 2013


On the 18th of March Broadland District Council launched its 3 month public consultation on its North-East Norwich Growth Triangle Area Action Plan (we’ll just call it the AAP).  The AAP had 45 questions relating to all aspects of the future development of a large area of mainly rural open land north-east of Norwich.  Over the 12 weeks of the consultation exercise, a total of 3067 responses were made by members of the public and what councils like to call ‘stakeholders’ (ie: landowners, developers, organizations with interests in how land is developed, etc).  A breakdown of the responses is interesting:

The 45 questions attracted 3067 responses altogether, of which 2446 were responses directly to questions 23 and 24, ie: the two Thorpe Woods questions.  That’s right, almost four times as many people responded to the Thorpe Woods questions as to all the other 43 questions put together. Question 23 was on whether Thorpe Woods should be allocated for some development or retained in its entirety as it is: 1662 responses were made, of which 1659 were unequivocally against development and for retention as woodland.  The three pro-development responses were from Gail Mayhew, Socially Conscious Capital, and one member of the public.

Question 24 was on whether a new link road, joining Plumstead Road in the south with Salhouse Road in the north, should pass through the middle of the wood, or around the wood’s eastern edge.  784 responses were made, of which 99% either supported the eastern route in order to avoid damaging the woodland, or expressed opposition to any new link road at all.
The other 43 questions attracted 621 responses. Despite very few of the other questions having any direct relevance to Thorpe Woods, many of the responses were either solely expressing opposition to the concept of development occurring on Thorpe Woods, or made some mention of such views within the body of the responses.

Among respondents to questions 23 & 24 were Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Natural England, RSPB, CPRE, the Norwich Society, Norwich City Council, Norwich Green Party, and a large number of people from all over the Norwich area as well as Thorpe.  There were also a significant number of responses from further afield in Norfolk, and a few from other parts of the country: there were even a couple from France!

The consultation’s results have given BDC a very clear impression of public feeling on the questions they asked, at least where questions relating to Thorpe Woods are concerned.  The Mayhews, Mellens and Meath-Bakers may try to continue ignoring public feeling, but we hope BDC will heed it, and refuse to give an inch to those who would flatten one of the Norwich area’s most treasured areas of woodland for their own profit.

Let’s hope that, by July 2014, we can bring the good news that the woods are at last safe.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fifty shades of green

New landowner plans which would break up key habitat and have building reach the heart of the County Wildlife Site woodland.

Some time ago we reported that Rock Fielding-Mellen of Socially Conscious Capital had taken over from Gail Mayhew as the Thorpe Woodlands scheme's chief promoter.  Mr Mellen's SCC is now being assisted by Lockhart Garratt (a large forestry consultancy) and Turley Associates (a planning consultancy).  Representatives from all three held a meeting at Broadland council's offices on May 30th, where they presented their latest ideas for the woods.  The meeting's agenda, drawn up by Lockhart Garratt, stated the purpose of the meeting as: "To gather initial views from key environmental stakeholders on a potential concept for the Racecourse Plantation site that seeks to deliver a new community woodland and Green Infrastructure asset, but potentially enabled by some minor element of housing".

We're used to seeing these greenwashed concept drawings from the variety of consultants T&FT have employed over the past 3 years, but this one takes the biscuit. We've created a modified version, here shown below, on which we've greyed out the development and re-coloured the map to better illustrate the loss and fragmentation of habitat. On the original, squint and you might just spot Racecourse's one road, which will presumably get jammed with the parked cars of the several hundred residents who'll have no way of driving any closer to their houses.  But maybe they won't need to, and maybe there won't even be 'houses' as we know them?  Look at the original's key and you'll see that light green with diagonal hatching means "Arcadian Development".  According to my dictionary Arcadian means: "Idealised rural scene of simple pleasure and quiet, typified in Greek and Latin pastoral poetry".  How lovely! A scatter of little wooden cabins, smoke drifting lazily into the clear sky, squirrels on bicycles delivering nuts and berries.  What could be nicer?  Sadly, it means housing estate - about 70 acres-worth, according to our calculations (so much for "some minor element..."), stretched across all three woods, not just Racecourse.  Notice how the hatched green extends along what looks like nice leafly tracks.  Notice, too, the liberal scatter of picnic tables, benches etc, plus a play area, car park, cafe, retail outlet (Tesco?) etc, as if these are features every decent wood and county wildlife site should have.

If their main plan seems far-fetched, their supplementary drawings are out of this world.  We won't waste time trying to explain what they're supposed to mean (it's doubtful even they know), but we'll just point you in the direction of the 'explanatory' text at the lower left corner of each drawing. There must be courses somewhere, where people get trained in this kind of language. (Click on each image to see a large version)

We particularly admire the way the last picture attempts to claim credit for the natural processes of the woodland they'd like to wreck.

At their private meeting, they said that unless they get permission to build in the woods, they might step up forestry operations and fence all the woodland off.  They muttered a similar threat during their 'charrette' in 2010, though strenuously denied it later.

The 'Trustees' seem utterly desperate.  Anyone might think they were short of money, but not at all: their family owns the 5000 acre Walsingham Estate (including its famous abbey, hall, four villages and numerous farms) plus other woodland in the Sprowston area, in Drayton, in Felthorpe, and for all we know, in many other parts of Norfolk.  They certainly don't need the money, and they can no longer fool anyone that they're performing some kind of public service (as they tried to make out back in 2010), because they are now well aware of the massive level of public opposition to their plans. They are also now aware of the woodland's' value to the environment and to Norwich.  It seems more like a hobby for them, or something that started out like that but has hardened into a grim determination to defeat the nature and people who stand in their way.

If that's how it is, they're in for a long game because we'll continue standing in their way for as long as it takes.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Thank you to all those who have responded in support of Thorpe Woodlands to the Broadland Area Action Plan Public Consultation.
Keep an eye on the blog for any developments, and for the final number of those who felt the future of our woodlands to be important enough to take part in the decision on their future.

Final number of responses is 2440!
99% of those were 
against any development of the woodlands.
The biggest response ever to a single issue in a 
Broadland Consultation

The vast majority of responses to the Consultation were on the Thorpe Woodlands questions and, of the remaining responses, many refer to the importance of keeping our woodlands for people's well being, the environment and for wildlife.

Thank you again and let's hope that our views are listened to, along with those of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and other environmental bodies, that this important local habitat and all the life it supports should be allowed to live on.

Although the consultation is now closed, it is still important to make your views known: to Broadland Planning by this email link.

Or make your views known by getting them in to the EDP or EEN by this link:

If you want to see the world of life that we can save, click on this link to: 
Thorpe Woodlands Gallery

Monday, 11 March 2013

Between a Rock and a green space...

That's the choice we'll all be faced with when BDC's public consultation begins on March 18th.  Rock Fielding-Mellen was quoted at some length in Chris Hill's excellent feature on Thorpe Woods (Evening News, 4th March and Eastern Daily Press on 5th March).  Rock might have talked a lot but he wasn't saying anything. He simply regurgitated the same old drivel doled out by the Mayhews, the Meath-Bakers and Andres Duany during their charade of a charrette in July 2010.

Fielding-Mellen said he wanted to explore all options, that nothing had been decided, that he wanted to see what everyone thought about the site and to gather local knowledge and opinion, and that only when he had done this would any concrete plans be produced for the future of the woods.  He said that the BDC consultation would form the start of this process, and went on to say that he didn't think anything like a "ground -up exercise looking at all the opportunities and constraints" had ever been attempted before.

It is common knowledge that Gail Mayhew spent months getting him started on this 'project' and went to the trouble of introducing him to local council members and officials. It is incredible that Gail, who loves to talk about her ideas on how the woods could be enhanced by building houses in them, didn't let Rock know in great detail about everything that had happened over the 12 years or so that she's been involved in 'promoting' the woods. Yet what he said was exactly what his predecessors told everyone two and a half years ago.

Back then, they told everyone throughout their week long charrette how they wanted it to be a ground-up exercise designed to explore every option; how they would be guided by local knowledge and opinion, and if it turned out that local opinion was strongly against any development in the woods, there would be none.  They promised to hold another public meeting in September 2010, to gauge public opinion once the charrette had had time to sink in. They promised to release their video of Andres Duany's final presentation (at which Duany revealed the shockingly destructive nature of his plans, and at which he was loudly argued against despite doing his utmost to avoid awkward questions). They promised that they would keep everyone thoroughly informed by keeping their website fully up to date. They also assured us that their motives were honourable and that their approach to all things connected with the woods was entirely open and honest.

They didn't hold any more meetings. They didn't release their video. They didn't update their website once, and they failed to keep anyone but themselves informed about anything. Their 'open and honest approach' was flexible enough to allow for Gail Mayhew to acquire, in August 2010, website domain names such as friendsof, etc, presumably in the hope of thwarting any ambitions on our part to obtain them.

They lied then, and it looks very much as if the same old lies have been passed to Rock for another airing.

But maybe Rock will surprise us all?  Perhaps he'll do a bit of research (this blog would be a good start), talk to some local people and their elected representatives, and the penny could just drop: maybe he'll realise that nobody wants the woods changed in any way other than for the better - and that better means nothing more than managed for the benefit of their already flourishing wildlife and made easier for people to walk around. Maybe he'll see that people don't merely value the woods as places to walk their dogs, but for their intrinsic beauty and the wealth of flora and fauna to be seen in them at all times of the year - values which would be ruined if his clients (Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, aka the Mayhews & Meath-Bakers) ever get their way.

Rock might see the dazzlingly obvious where those who went before failed, but it would be unwise to put too much hope in that. Instead, we must all take the chance afforded by the forthcoming BDC consultation, to let BDC know exactly what we think of any 'promotion of the site for development'.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Britain’s trees & woods are facing “an unprecedented level of threat” according to a report recently published by the Forestry Commission. 19 serious pests and diseases have been recorded as occurring in the country’s tree population, with 10 of these considered to be of epidemic status. Further pests & diseases are rapidly approaching our island from the continent, and are expected to appear here in the near future. The most serious and by far the most talked about disease is ash dieback, which threatens to bring about enormous changes to Britain’s landscape. Acute oak decline is an as yet poorly understood syndrome which results in severe and rapid crown dieback and death. Phytophthora diseases of various species are attacking a range of species including alder, larch, juniper and horse chestnut. Sweet chestnut blight has arrived from continental Europe in the past year or so, and the list continues to grow.

In addition to the threat from ‘natural’ causes, our woodlands are under continual attack by developers. Our trees and woods have always been under-protected but the government’s recent planning reforms have weakened their protection further.

In July 2012 the government released figures from the Independent Panel on Forestry showing that some 3750 acres of woodland has been lost every year for the past ten years. In that period, 683 woods came under threat from developers, of which 134 woods were lost. Research completed in 2012 concluded that there has been a decline of over 95% in hedgerow trees over the past 60 years: in 1951 there were estimated to be 56 million hedgerow trees in England, whereas the figure for 2012 is an estimated 2 million.

All this at a time when trees and woodlands are more valued than ever by the public. The outcry against the government’s scheme to sell off the Forestry Commission’s land was huge, and had to be heeded. Locally, the campaign to save Thorpe’s woods has become extremely popular, illustrated by a torrent of letters in the Norwich Evening News in the fortnight before Christmas: the catalyst for this impressive flood of letter-writing was an article in the Evening News on 10th December reporting that Thorpe councillors Ian Mackie and Nigel Shaw had re-stated their commitment to standing up for the woods.

Britain’s woodlands are very much under siege but the threat to woodlands in Norfolk, and the Norwich area in particular, is probably greater than average. Not only was the site of one of the UK’s first confirmed outbreaks of ash dieback in mature woodland under 20 miles from Norwich, but Norfolk has acute oak decline and Phytophthora diseases in alder, horse chestnut and other tree species. But on top of this, the north-eastern fringes of Norwich have been targeted for 10,000 new houses to be built by 2026. Landowners have been eagerly rubbing their hands in anticipation of the millions they could make if their land is allocated for development in the North East Norwich Growth Triangle, and among these landowners is, of course, the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, owners of our woods in Thorpe.

Before the T&FT can lay a single brick, however, Broadland District Council have to explicitly declare the woods available for development in their forthcoming Area Action Plan. The AAP will be the development planning document that govern which land within the growth triangle may be considered for development and which land is to be retained as green space (or ‘Green Infrastructure’ as it is officially called).

In view of the unprecedented level of threat to woodlands in general, anyone might expect the concept of allowing such superb woodland as is found at Racecourse Plantation, Belmore Plantation and Brown’s Plantation to be destroyed for development to be completely unthinkable. However, BDC have so far been reluctant to see it this way. There are strong indications that BDC will include an option for development on the woods in the AAP consultation, expected to be launched in April 2013. We expect alternative options that exclude any development on the woods to go alongside it.

When the AAP consultation begins, it will be essential that everyone who cares about Thorpe’s woods, and woodlands and trees in general, seizes their chance to stand up for the woods by responding to the consultation. An overwhelming NO to any development in Thorpe’s woods will help steer BDC’s decision-makers in the right direction.

Watch this space for updates, and please also put your email address on the new urgent mailout list by sending an email to: