Demonstration to save woods

A demonstration has been held by campaigners trying to save woods in Thorpe St Andrew from development.

Thorpe St Andrew councillors and members of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands met for a demonstration on Saturday, only to find that 'no public access' signs warning of 'no trepassing' have now been erected at the woods off Pound Lane and Plumstead Road East.

The owners of the woods, the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust and the John Gurney Charitable Trust, are looking to build 631 new homes on the sites of three woodlands – the Belmore, Racecourse and Brown's Plantations.

However, families in the area feel strongly that the woodlands should remain as a 'green lung' on the edge of Norwich and to be enjoyed by people living there.

Thorpe St Andrew councillors at county, district and parish level were among nearly 100 demonstrators who attended on Saturday.

Ian Mackie, Norfolk county councillor for Thorpe St Andrew, said: 'I'm absolutely delighted with the turnout.

'I think it shows the strength of feeling in the local community and demonstrates how valued and loved these woodland sites are for people living here.

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'This is an established woodland oasis and I hope the developers take on board what people have said and withdraw any plans they have to destroy this valuable habitat.'

Lorna Beckett, of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands, said she felt putting the signs up at the Belmore and Racecourse Plantations right before the demonstration was a 'confrontational' move by the trust.

Mrs Beckett said: 'I think that, considering the meeting on July 7 when they said they were happy for people to walk in these woods and consider themselves as unofficial guardians, to put notices up on the day we had planned to visit them is rather confrontational.'

A spokeswoman for the Thorpe and Felthrope Trust said it still welcomed the formation of the friends and wanted to 'build a useful dialogue with the group', but it was disappointed about some of the information that had been published on the group's website.

She added: 'There is no public access nor rights of way across the land which is managed for commercial forestry and, in part, is let for a variety of uses not compatible with public access.

'The trust has, however, permitted informal access to its neighbours. This permission does not extend to the holding of rallies or demonstrations, nor mass walks. The trust has put up signs to clarify this position.

The trust will be seeking a meeting with its neighbours in the coming weeks to discuss any concerns they might have.'

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