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

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Broadland Council Votes To Save Thorpe Woods

After a long process of consultation, environmental study and planning, the Area Action Plan (AAP) for development to the north east of Norwich is complete.
On the 10th of July Broadland District Council voted to adopt the Growth Triangle AAP.  As part of the AAP, Thorpe Woods are now recognised as being central to sustainability.  This recognition is a reflection of the strongly expressed views of environmental bodies including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the considered opinion of Broadland's own ecological consultant and the overwhelming public oposition to building on the woods recorded in Broadlands’ public consultation.

4 years ago, the woodlands' owners, hoping to replace the trees with a profitable housing estate, presented a very different story. With the expensive help of jet setting planning guru Andres Duany they described the woodlands as redundant conifer plantation, fit only to become 'Belmore Park', 800 or more homes to replace the trees. There was no mention of course that the same woodlands were already designated as a County Wildlife Site by NWT, containing important habitats and rare plant species.

This misinformation worked for some time, to the extent that even BDC described this wonderful habitat as being largely conifer plantation. It has taken 4 years of persistence and hard work by core campaigners to prove that the would-be developers' descriptions were false. 

When the expensive Andres Duanys’ golden touch turned to manure, the owners, the Mayhew and Meath Baker families (Meet The Mayhews) hired The Matirx Partnership, a UK based high-flying development consultancy,  but their relationship was short lived. Eventually, Gail Mayhew, grew tired of pretending the plan of building on a County Wildlife Site was a good idea. She resorted to entrusting the onerous task of securing planning permission for Norwich's most unpopular ever development concept to a friend from Kensington & Chelsea, a certain Rock Fielding-Mellen, 

Mr Mellen and his company 'Socially Conscious Capital', specialising in difficult and unpopular planning applications, offered the Mayhews a 'no win, no fee' deal. The aristocratic Mellen and his old Etonian chums squandered prodigious sums of pocket money hiring compliant consultants and again proposed saving and improving the woodlands by  building on them, all this featured ,with no sense of irony, on a lovely website. But all to no avail.  At last it seems that Thorpe Woods and the fabulous biodiversity they support, have the future that they deserve.

The AAP must now stand for a minimum of 6 weeks, during which period interested parties may comment only on the soundness of its decision making process. Hence, there is still a threat to the woods, but it would have to be an outright attack on the whole process of local democracy and development planning. It is uncertain whether Socially Conscious Capital will appeal against BDC's decision, especially as the woodlands now constitute key Green Infrastructure within a development plan that provides more than adequate housing. But given the democratically oblivious and environmentally blind approach of SCC's 'No win, no fee' way of working, we must watch and wait.

This huge step towards saving a beautiful woodland area and wildlife habitat, from greed driven and completely needless development is something Broadland and Norwich can be proud of.
And it's thanks to the public, environmental bodies, Thorpe's BDC councillors and all who added their voice to our campaign, that in this case common sense for once might prevail.   

Thank you all!