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)