Thorpe Woods, photo by Paul Osbourne

Misleading claims from developer disputed by Wildlife Trust


Thursday 22 September, 2016


Norfolk Wildlife Trust criticises misleading claims made by developers Socially Conscious Capital (SCC) as the Trust maintains objection to their proposal for new housing at Racecourse Plantation, in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich.
 
A planning proposal by the owners of Thorpe Woods is to develop part of the woods for housing. There have been proposals for development in the woods previously, but these were withdrawn after opposition from NWT and the local community, and recognition by Broadland District Council that the area is vital green space for north-east Norwich.
 
The wood is made up of three plantations – Racecourse, Belmore and Browns – and is designated as a County Wildlife Site (CWS). This means it has been recognised as being an area rich in wildlife. Outside of nationally protected areas, CWS are the best areas for wildlife in the county. They are selected using scientific criteria and detailed ecological surveys.
 
NWT believes new promotional materials from the developers, SCC contain misleading claims in a bid to gain public support for the development of 300 houses in Racecourse Plantation.
 
On their website SCC state that Racecourse Plantation is in the Northeast Norwich Growth Triangle, but neglect to mention that its inclusion is because it is an area to be protected from development, rather than suitable for it. This is because it is a County Wildlife Site and because it will be surrounded by other areas along the Salhouse Road, which have already been zoned for development.
 
In the brochure SCC claims that CWS status will be protected and ‘enhanced’ by their proposal. Senior Conservation Officer, John Hiskett responded:
 
“Describing a development that takes up 10 hectares of a 60 hectare County Wildlife Site as protecting it cannot be justified. Undoubtedly the ecological value of the site could be enhanced through better management. However in our view the loss of such a large area of the CWS and the knock on impacts in the areas of woodland surrounding the housing would far outweigh these gains. Furthermore, using the word ‘enhanced’ is misleading because any improvements in the remaining woodland would be necessary mitigation for loss of the 10 hectares to housing.”
 
NWT also criticises the statement in the brochure that there will be fewer trees removed with the development than in the forestry plan. If trees are removed as part of a forestry plan, there will be usually be a requirement to replant. In many cases however, trees are removed for thinning purposes to result in a smaller number of better specimens. Tree removal can improve biodiversity in the woodland, as it can create more open space, glades and management of the rides and improve the habitat for former heathland plants found in the woodland.
 
John added: “There is a strong argument that forestry and wildlife, and also forestry and access, are compatible. It would be quite possible with much more limited funds to manage the wood for forestry into the future and create informal access, as happens in many other managed woodlands.”
 
Broadland District Council has recently been able to open the nearby Harrison’s Plantation to the public as a community woodland, with money paid for by developers. This area provides a network of walks through woodland very similar to Racecourse Plantation. However, SCC neglects to mention that this community asset already exists.
 
Norfolk Wildlife Trust believes that Thorpe Woods should be retained in their entirety as a key biodiversity asset within north-east Norwich. We will therefore be objecting to the proposal. 
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