MP denies work at housing development breaches coronavirus restrictions
PUBLISHED: 14:11 06 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:11 06 April 2020
A Norfolk MP has rejected claims that work at a controversial housing development flouts coronavirus regulations - and is instead providing key materials.
Extinction Rebellion Norwich (XR) members have expressed concern that wood clearance work at the Racecourse Plantation in Thorpe St Andrew is not permitted under current restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic.
They claimed the work was not essential and therefore should not be taking place in order to protect the NHS during the public health crisis.
But Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland, a trustee of the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust, who own the woodland site, said it came within an exemption for key goods.
Mr Mayhew forwarded parts of a briefing from the Forestry Consultant responsible for overseeing the works.
It said: “Government guidance on Covid-19 has confirmed through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that Forestry and the wood sector are to continue working in the supply chain for key goods – including but not limited to pallets, heating, packaging, tissue paper, timber harvesting and sawmills.
“All workers engaged in these activities are classed as key workers. All the timber felled at Thorpe including the brash is destined for timber, pallets, and wood fuel.”
Contractors are fully briefed and following social distancing guidelines on site, the briefing added.
Racecourse Plantation forms part of the Thorpe Woodlands, off Plumstead Road East, and is made up of thousands of native and non-native trees.
Plans for 300 new homes were initially refused by Broadland District Council in June 2017 and attracted widespread opposition from campaigners, local councillors and the county’s wildlife trust over the loss of woodland.
But the decision was overturned in January 2019 at an appeal lodged by developer Socially Conscious Capital (SCC).
Inspector Frances Mahoney ruled the development would not have an adverse impact on biodiversity.
Proposals for the site also include a 61-hectare community woodland park and affordable housing.
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