Last March Broadland District Council voted to adopt the Joint Core Strategy, this will act as the basis for all housing development in the Broadland area for the next 15 years.
Thorpe Woodlands (which is a County Wildlife Site - CWS) fall within the JCS and are situated in a growth triangle that covers the area surrounding Thorpe St Andrews.
The Friends have been working hard to ensure that Thorpe Woodlands unique environmental and ecological benefits are recognised and protected under the JCS.
In the run up to the JCS vote we have been in contact with Natural England who are a statutory consultee in the planning process and are consulted on all Local Development Framework documents. In their letter, which was released on the day of the JCS vote, they drew attention to the fact that:
County Wildlife Sites form a vital element of green infrastructure provision for the city, and their value is specifically mentioned in the JCS, supporting Policy 1 - Climate change and protecting environmental assets: ‘Assets of local importance, such as County Wildlife Sites, are valuable in their own right and in combination provide a significant resource.’ (page 25). The policy itself contains a high level of protection for local sites, which requires all losses to be mitigated:
In areas not protected through international or national designations, development will:
· minimise fragmentation of habitats and seek to conserve and enhance
. existing environmental assets of acknowledged regional or local importance.
. Where harm is unavoidable, it will provide for appropriate mitigation or
. replacement with the objective of achieving a long-term maintenance or
. enhancement of the local biodiversity baseline.
It would appear from your website and petition that there is a strong case to be made for these County Wildlife Site woodlands to be recognised as of ‘local importance’, and therefore there is a duty enshrined in policy to ‘conserve and enhance’.
In addition to the above the Joint Core Strategy Document itself also sets out the area of green infrastructure for the Greater Norwich Area. Page 29 (see picture) maps all these areas, one of which is clearly Thorpe Woods.
Table 1 of the JCS sets out the priority one infrastructure requirements for the delivery of the JCS. The green infrastructure section of this table (see picture) has amongst its green priorities, the Retention and re-creation of Mousehold Heath to the surrounding countryside. This requirement is required to allow for the growth within the Old Catton, Sprowston, Rackheath and Thorpe St Andrew Growth Triangle.
As can be seen from the aerial photograph Thorpe Woods forms part of what once was Mousehold Heath and therefore if this priority is to be implemented the woods should not only be conserved, they should be enhanced.
In addition to the aboce our local councillors Ian Mackie, Nigel Shaw and John Fisher have drawn the councils attention to the fact that Thorpe Woods are identified as an area of Green Infrastruture on page 29 of the JCS documents (see above) whilst Councillor Mackie pointed out that under the pre-existing Broadland District Local Plan, ENV7 it states: Development which would significantly adversely affect the wildlife interest of areas of local nature conservation importance, including County Wildlife Sites and ancient woodlands identified by English Nature …will not be permitted.Councillor Mackie also drew attention to the fact that on page 25 of the JCS under the heading of Policy 1: Addressing climate change and protecting environmental assets it sets out the level of protection that should be afforded to sites such as Thorpe Woods, he asked Councillor Proctor, Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy & Conservation, that in light of this how would any development proposals for the woods be viewed, Councillor Proctor replied that he would "require a good deal of convincing" before he would consider any such proposal, following the meeting we were advised that taking into account the legal constraints on Councillor Proctor this statement should be seen as being strongly in favour of the preservation of Thorpe Woodlands.
Your support together with the support of our local councillors has been vital to the campaign to save and preserve these wonderful and unique woodlands.
In the coming months the council will be consulting on their Area Action Plan which will identify the specific locations for housing development and Green Infrastructure under the JCS. It is vital that all of us work together to ensure that Thorpe Woods are identified as an area of Green Infrastructure, as by doing this we will guarantee their protection for the next 15 years.
We will be in touch to explain how you can help to make sure that Thorpe Woods are protected well into the 21st Century.
The Joint Core Strategy document can be accessed by clicking HERE