New chapter in battle over ancient woodland as developer proposes creating “mini Thetford Forest” on edge of Norwich

PUBLISHED: 06:30 04 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:24 04 November 2013

Thorpe Woods. Picture: Mike Page.

Thorpe Woods. Picture: Mike Page.

Mike Page

The battle over the future of ancient Norwich woodland will reignite this week, as developers begin public consultations about the possibility of building hundreds of homes.

Friends of Thorpe Woods close to Pound Lane, one of the ancient areas of woodland they are appealing to the public to help preserve in the face of proposals to develop for housing. Photo: Steve AdamsFriends of Thorpe Woods close to Pound Lane, one of the ancient areas of woodland they are appealing to the public to help preserve in the face of proposals to develop for housing. Photo: Steve Adams

Thorpe Woods, on the north-east outskirt of Norwich, has previously been the subjects of plans for 800 homes.

Now people living in the Thorpe St Andrew, Heartsease and Thorpe End area will be issued a choice by the owners of the 200-acre woodland at two public exhibitions.

During the last three years the Friends of Thorpe Woods campaign group has been battling to protect the woodland, which is designated as a County Wildlife Site.

Developer Socially Conscious Capital (SCC) is now putting forward two options on behalf of the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust, which owns the woods, which straddle Plumstead Road East and stretch north towards Salhouse Road.

Rock Feilding, managing director of Socially Conscious Capital.Rock Feilding, managing director of Socially Conscious Capital.

The first option centres on intensifying commercial forestry management, which the owners say the majority of the woods were first planted for.

SCC say new 20-year management plans have been agreed with the Forestry Commission and that 10-year felling consents have been secured.

This would mean that by 2023 over 55 acres of the woods will have been clear-felled or coppiced and leave public access more tightly restricted “to avoid public liability and health and safety issues”.

The second option, which SCC say is its preferred option, involves the creation of a new community woodland, which the developer says would be like “a mini Thetford Forest”.

Thorpe Woods potential development area.Thorpe Woods potential development area.

This would see over 125 acres of the woods handed over to an independent trust to be owned and managed for public benefit in perpetuity.

SCC say this option would mean more than doubling the amount of the woods that are publicly accessible.

The developer is not yet saying how many homes it would intend to build but clearly states the second option would be funded through the development of “high quality housing on the ecologically least valuable parts of the site”, with the proceeds funding the creation of the new community woodland and an on-going service charge funding the day-to-day management of the woods.

Rock Feilding, managing director of 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.

“It must also be acknowledged that the woods are a privately owned commercial asset with no formal public rights of access, although the owners have traditionally taken a permissive approach to allowing neighbours to use it for recreation.

“Many parts of the plantations have now reached maturity, so the owners need to make a decision about the future of the site.

“Doing nothing is not option as the woods would not only deteriorate as a commercial asset, but their ecological, landscape, and recreational potential would also diminish or be limited without the necessary management and investment.”

The Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust, has been promoting Thorpe Woods for possible development within Broadland District Council’s Area Action Plan, which covers the “Growth Triangle” which has been earmarked for 10,000 homes as part of the wider growth ambitions of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership.

The Friends of Thorpe Woods rallied its 1,000 members, and saw 2,440 people write to oppose the development, the largest response the council received.

They were also joined by the RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and Natural England in their calls for the woods to be saved.

Mr Fielding added: “The vast majority of respondents opposed the idea of developing over the whole of the site, but they also supported the idea of getting greater public access to the woods.

“We completely agree with that majority opinion – it would be a travesty to build over all the woods, but it would be a wasted opportunity not to formally open more of the woods up to the public.”

Two public exhibitions will be held by SCC this Friday, at the Dussindale Centre in Thorpe St Andrew from 1pm to 4.30pm and in Thorpe End Village Hall from 6pm to 9pm.

The Friends of Thorpe Woods have described the choices offered by SCC as “a PR offensive” and issued a statement saying: “The latest approach tries to both bribe and threaten local people but in truth their supposed ‘creation of the new community woodland’ should be viewed as a Trojan Horse.

“If any houses were given planning permission, it would leave the floodgates open to the land being sold for mass development. It is nonsense to argue that the best way of saving this woodland is to build 700 houses over it, a figure proposed by Socially Conscious Capital at a council meeting only last month.

“Any level of development would do immense damage to the woods as a whole.”

Work by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust has previously found rare species such as great crested newts, white admiral butterflies, adders and glow-worms.

The Friends group have also been supported by local county councillors Ian Mackie and Nigel Shaw.

Mr Mackie said: “Housing sites within the growth triangle have not yet been determined and it appears that the owners of the site are offering either a loss of 55 acres of woodland to the chainsaw or 75 acres to the bulldozer.

“With so much growth already planned in and around Thorpe already I see little need for this scheme and the plans for an independent trust appears to have little detail behind it, such as who would run it and who could afford to manage a 125 acres of woodland in perpetuity?

“I’ve opposed development on this site for 10 years and don’t see anything new on offer.”

- What do you think of the proposals? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

Related links

“The idea of seeing it all gone is abominable”: Campaigners step up their fight to save Thorpe Woodlands

Discovery of great crested newts give Friends of Thorpe Woodlands campaign a boost

Families urged to back campaign for Thorpe St Andrew woodlands

Fight goes on over Thorpe Woodlands

Thorpe woodland gets ancient status

6 comments

  • Socially Concious capital, another big wig wannabee fresh out of uni wanting to get rich at enviroments expense , Norwich must realise that this is not just a thorpe st andrew , Heartsease, and Torpe end issue , these kind of peopl;e will swallow up anything , soon there will be no where to take your children , dogs for a walk , enjoy wildlife , Norwich must protest en mass !

    Report this comment

    thefox77

    Monday, November 4, 2013

  • I would support those who have concerns that over zealous environmentalists prevent the full use of maturing commercial plantations and landowners possibly refrain from planting new commercial woods , especially hardwoods, for this reason. Any wood is a good wood, even if it is cut down after a hundred or more years. And the fact that there has been public access is irrelevant, especially if it has been on the basis of trespass and not existing rights . It is the wood that counts. However, it seems likely that this commercial wood is on the site of much older woodland or possibly on part of the great heaths which surrounded Norwich and which remain in part as Mousehold. ( Rather like BactonWitton Woods which are soft woods planted on the felled site of a very ancient chestnut and oak wood) .Since those woods and heaths have been nibbled at remorselessly, losing more would be a shame. Using public access as a sop for building on woodland and using the maintenance of woodland as a bit of coercion to get development is not really on. The Forestry Commission has a say in what is felled and planners should look at a conservation order to insist , if they can, on replanting.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Monday, November 4, 2013

  • With the rush to expand Norwich beyond its ability to coup,nothing seems to matter to the Planners and Developers,just swallow up all the Green Space,Woodland,Beauty SpotsAncient Site and so on under concrete

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Monday, November 4, 2013

  • The name this organisation has adopted is a sham to try to mislead everyone. They are just a developer like everyone else. We should all oppose this development which has no social or ecological merits at all.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Monday, November 4, 2013

  • The present day population of this country seem to have a loathing of trees and are obsessed with their removal. Nearly every front garden is now gravel and paving.

    Report this comment

    Steely Dan

    Monday, November 4, 2013

  • So good to see that you are talking from a deep understanding of the subject Daisyroots.."Any wood is a good wood, even if it is cut down after a 100 years." So bio diversity built up after 100 years is going to be replaced how?? And what about the species that rely upon our trees Daisyroots?? Do you know how many different species can rely upon each species Daisyroots?? Do you know what happen to the floor of a mature woodland??? Do you think for one second a sapling, even 100 saplings can replace a 100 year old tree?? Intelligent woodland management is so that there is only clear felling in small areas & that this felling takes place on a rotation basis, so that the same areas are being cleared every 30 years or what ever the rotation is..Selective felling also takes place in the other parts of the woodland to produce an environment that is diverse & thriving..

    Report this comment

    el84

    Monday, November 4, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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