Fears that access to popular woodland could be cut off

Thorpe woods which are under threat from housing development.

Thorpe woods which are under threat from housing development. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

There are concerns that a landowner is attempting to stop members of the public from using a popular stretch of woodland.

Back in December the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust made a submission stating it wished to 'bring an end' to the lawful public use of Thorpe Woods.

It comes just months after a planning application to build 300 homes on a section of the site, known as Racecourse Plantation, was submitted.

While there is no legal right of way established through the woodland, which is located in Thorpe St Andrew, people have used the land for decades.

But Thorpe St Andrew Town Council's clerk, Thomas Foreman, fears the current public access arrangement could be cut off following the latest submission.

And he claimed it would be more likely to happen if a 300-home planning application, by developers Socially Conscious Capital, was refused.

'There is a real possibility that if the application is refused, the landowner could prevent any public access to the land until another application goes through,' he said.

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'They could erect fences to make it a private woodland, leave it for a year, and then in a new application, say they intend to introduce a public right of way, which would carry more weight.'

The council is now looking to object to the registration and make its own application for a public right of way on the land.

A spokesman for the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust said the submission states there are no current rights of access or rights of way over the woods.

However, the spokesman said rights of access would be granted should the 300 homes be approved by Broadland District Council.

'While the trust has always had the right to prevent access, no plans have been made to fence off the woods at this time,' the spokesman said.

Ian Mackie, town mayor, said the move did not demonstrate a 'willingness' to be part of the community.

The submission will be discussed by the council on February 6.

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