Today was one of those glorious Autumn days, cold and bright, with a lovely fresh smell in the air. For a while now I’ve been wondering how many trees the council planted alongside the new dual carriageway near me have actually survived, so I thought I go take a look. Short answer from the small survey of 216 trees on one particular stretch: 16% have died.
The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) has been open for a few years now, and had lots of trees planted alongside it to try to restore the damage done by the road. We’re supposed to call it the Broadland Northway now; I think this is probably an effort by Norfolk County Council to disguise the fact that its purpose is to open up the countryside to more development, distributing traffic to new parts of the county.
Unfortunately, many of the trees planted have died due to the extreme weather we’ve been having. It’s just been too hot and dry, and they haven’t been watered sufficiently. A plethora of plastic tree guards now stand empty in many places, grave markers for the saplings that have sadly perished. It was good to see so many other plants growing in the verge alongside the road, however I’m sure Yarrow shouldn’t be flowering at this time of year; I guess that’s because of how warm it’s been.
My plant ID skills aren’t brilliant, but I saw Comfrey, Yarrow, Ribwort and Greater Plantain, as well as thistles, Red Campion, Hogweed, Common Mugwort in abundance, Oxeye Daisies and Buttercups. There were loads of other species however I’ll have to take along a guide to ID them next time. Roadside verges can contain lots of biodiversity, I’ve seen hares feeding alongside the cycle path, kestrels hunting, and lots of insects in the summer. However, I don’t think the verges really make up for the swathe of destruction caused when the road was built.
Today was an exploratory visit. I counted trees on a hundred metre stretch not far from the Plumsteads, noting down species as well as dead or missing trees. I concentrated on the eastern side of the bank built up next to the dual carriageway, which is more shaded. The western side looked to have more empty tree guards, however it’ll need a return visit to confirm this. Results of this initial exploratory survey below.
TREE SURVEY 25 NOV 2022
Here’s a pie chart of the results.
Field Maple came our top, followed by Hawthorn, however it was good to see other species mixed in such as Cherry, Spindle, a good number of English Oaks, Dogwood and Blackthorn. Lots of good species for wildlife to use. Unfortunately 16% of the tree guards were either standing empty, or had dead saplings inside them. I suspect the percentage is in fact a bit higher than this as some tree guards have either been removed or have blown away. I think the western side of the bank will have a bigger percentage of dead trees, and I know other stretches have been impacted to a greater or lesser degree. I’ll have to get out and do other surveys in different locations.
I believe around 6,000 trees were cut down to build the NDR, a road that cost £205m to build. It was reported in October last year that around 3,500 of the trees planted to replace those lost when the road was built have died. Norfolk County Council pledged to plant 5 trees for every 1 they cut down, 30,000 in total. They must be a long way off this target, especially as many more trees and shrubs, lots of them replacement replacements, perished during the heatwave this summer.
It’s frustrating that Norfolk County Council think you can just replace mature trees and habitat, destroyed to make way for road building, with saplings that will take decades to do anything meaningful in terms of carbon sequestration. It will also take centuries for the soil to recover, species to translocate, and for any sort of mature woodland landscape to settle back in. The Council are planning the same with the Northern Distributor Road; it just doesn’t add up when we’re in a climate and ecological emergency, not to mention the impact it has on local communities, flood mitigation, and local wildlife. It’s also frustrating to see so many empty plastic tree guards littering parts of the landscape next to the NDR.
I hope to get out for further surveys over the coming weeks so I can report back findings to Broadland Green Party, who will be able to raise this with Broadland District Council. Tree ID gets a bit trickier as they lose their leaves, so I’ll have to put my winter buds knowledge to use.
No pictures of Gideon on this blog post I’m afraid, he’s hiding somewhere after having an argument with one of the neighbour’s cats. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a glorious Norfolk sunset from the other evening.
The week draws to and end, and I’ve even written some Christmas cards and acquired a few gifts. Almost feel semi-organised, with only mild levels of pre-festive stress and worry about stuff I haven’t done. I like Christmas, when it gets to the actual few days of celebration, but not the weeks of build up.
Gideon has been decidedly unstressed. In fact he appears to be doing very little as we approach mid-winter. This was mostly him today.
Reply from Jerome Mayhew below, but if nothing else please watch the film from George Monbiot at the end of this post, it’s really important…beware of the clowns.
Now you’ve enjoyed the cat pictures, here’s the response from Jerome Mayhew MP, to the email I sent him earlier this week. To be fair on him, he responded very quickly and comprehensively. The bit about public transport is ok, the rest I mostly find dubious – I’ve inserted a few comments in square brackets and in italics. I shall be replying when I have some time. Let me know what you think…
Dear Mr Harvey,
Thank you for your email. You have raised a number of points with me so please do forgive the length of my reply.
Weston Link Road
Whilst I do not have a constitutional say over whether the Norwich Western Link takes place, as this is a matter devolved away from MPs, I do support the scheme. I agree that none of the potential routes for the WLR is without very considerable costs in terms of impact to an otherwise lovely part of our countryside [If all the proposed routes are bad, then why go ahead?]. So what we are looking for is the least-worst option. The County Council has undertaken extensive consultation on which route to adopt and, on balance, Option C was found to be the best in terms of its impact on local communities, environmental impact, value for money and through the benefits it will provide to local transport links and safety, by removing the rat runs between the A47 and the NDR. Whilst some people, would prefer one of the other options, without there being a significant failing in the process of consultation, I don’t feel able to argue against the outcome that the consultation produced. In addition to those opposed to it Option C has wide-ranging support including Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich Airport, Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk Fire and Rescue and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. [Using the emergency services to justify more roads doesn’t work for me. More roads equals more traffic, more emissions, and they’ll still get held up. Plus emergency services are going to be under massive pressure due to climate crisis over the coming years]
Having spoken with the Council I understand ecologists have carried out extensive bat surveys over the last three years across a wide area to the west of Norwich, most recently completing further bat radiotracking surveys earlier this month. Consequently, the Council are developing mitigation proposals to take account of the data collected and are planning to put in considerable measures designed to support local bat populations, including green bridges, underpasses, and improving existing habitats and creating new ones. [The Barbastelle Bat colony is one of the biggest if not the biggest in the UK. They are an endangered species and the road would destroy the colony]
The Council have asked Dr Packman several times if she would be happy to share the data behind the conclusions she has drawn about barbastelle bats and the Norwich Western Link, including the locations of any barbastelle bat roosts her surveys have identified. To date the data has not been provided. As I am sure you can appreciate without seeing this data the Council cannot comment on the conclusions Dr Packman has drawn and will continue to base their proposed mitigation and enhancement measures on the evidence they have collected through their surveys. [The research he is referring to is being written up and checked pre-publication – it needs to be fact checked thoroughly to ensure it cannot be disputed, only wish the Government did more of that]
Given the majority of Broadland is not served by rail the only realistic public transport we can talk about are bus services. I fully accept that the current service needs improving as it fails the needs of the majority of residents with infrequent, poorly used and diesel powered buses. The only way I can see the majority of the network being improved is through the adoption of new technology. For example, smaller vehicles which have the right capacity and ride sharing technology which enables on demand door to door service. This is something I have previously raised with Norfolk County Council to see if there is appetite for a trial run in Norfolk.
In addition to this technological solution, earlier this year the Prime Minister announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London. This package of investment will boost bus services by focusing on a range of priorities, set to include:
Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
More affordable, simpler fares
At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions
Cycle routes will also see a major boost across the country with over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities to be constructed across England, as part of this multibillion pound package.
[Ok, so on public transport I think we can agree, to an extent, but it needs even more investment]
Thorpe Woods are a mixture of semi-natural woodland around compartments of commercial planting which was harvested under their FC woodland management plans. Given the encroachment of Norwich on three sides and the increasing informal use of the woods by these residents, together with the small scale of the commercial plantation, it is no longer suitable to continue to use the site for commercial forestry. The area of commercial forestry was planted in the first place because it was poor quality land, and had since developed poor ecological value due to its heavy monoculture [this is really outdated terminology – it’s old Heathland that would regenerate quickly if left alone. As a friend said – Here, in Thorpe, right on the edge of Norwich, we have 200+ acres of prime lowland heath / ancient woodland / wood pasture habitat, containing more rare & scarce plant species than almost any other site outside of SSSIs] . So the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust decided that the best future use of the land was to supply local housing need and thereby secure the long term future of the wider woodland for public access, biodiversity growth and recreation.
The planning process undertaken by the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust is a matter of public record, which included the right to appeal to the planning inspector, who spent six days hearing evidence from all interested parties as well as visiting the site, before coming to her decision granting outline planning permission. I agree that we should protect and manage the mature native woodland in Thorpe Woods, work to improve biodiversity and focus on ecological management. As made very clear in the report of the independent Planning Inspector this is exactly what the Trust will be doing; giving for ever and for free c.140 acres of Thorpe Woods as a community woodland for everyone, whilst improving ecological management, biodiversity, public access and recreation. The Planning Inspector found that: “… the development proposals as a whole would protect and enhance the biodiversity of the District.” This is even after the new housing is taken into account. She went on to conclude that the plan, “…constitutes Sustainable Development.” [I, many local ecologists, and the residents of Thorpe are going to have to agree to disgree on this. You can’t improve biodiversity by destroying important habitat]
The development site is now the responsibility of Hill Group, to whom any enquiries about the development should be directed. [Yes, we’re doing that – keeping an eye on their plans after you sold the woods to them for millions]
We do need to build new homes for younger generations as our local population expands and the size of individual households decreases. That being said, I think any new homes that are being built should be in keeping with the area and should bring with them sufficient infrastructure investment so that the additional population do not impact negatively on local public services. I note from your own address that you live in new build estate, which until a few years ago was a field. [Thanks for that, yes I do live in a new build that was built on old agricultural land I think – ecological deserts most of the time, due to intensive farming, not the same as cutting down woodland]
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains a huge number of useful additions to our criminal justice system, as the rather unwieldy name implies. Many of these are uncontroversial and I would certainly not want to delay their introduction by voting against this Bill. Many of the provisions are also a direct delivery of Conservative manifesto pledges from the election, so it would also be deeply undemocratic of me to seek to prevent their introduction. The clauses relating to non-violent but highly disruptive protests are there to help the police to manage the new wave of protest direct action, where the aim is not so much to protest as to cause chaos and inconvenience to as many people as possible. We all have a right to protest and to make sure that our voices are heard, but it is a right to protest, not to prevent. Why should one section of the public have an unfettered right to impose massive disruption on the rest of society? What about their right to get on with life? Where competing rights clash, the law must maintain a balance. Modern protest movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, game the system, and disruption, not peaceful protest, is their objective. The law needs to adjust to maintain the balance of competing rights, and I think this Bill helps to achieve that.
Is this new power open to abuse? Yes it is, like every power that the police have, but there is no difference between this power and every other power that we loan to the police. It is open to challenge and review through the press and the courts. As a democracy, we are well used to holding those in power to account. Every single member of the public has the power to become a citizen journalist immediately through their ‘phone. As a result, the police are subject to review and oversight like never before.
The setting up of illegal traveller sites can be a nuisance for local communities and an inappropriate development of open space. Many local residents across the country are concerned about anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, and noise related to unauthorised sites.
After two consultations on this issue, as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, new laws will be introduced to increase the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress. In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.
I can reassure you that the Government has taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures.
These new measures are a proportionate and necessary increase in powers for the police. The Government has made it clear that only a minority of travellers are causing problems, such as through abusive behaviour and extensive litter and waste at illegal sites. The vast majority of the travelling community are decent law-abiding people and we must ensure that there are legal sites available for travellers. As of January 2020, the number of lawful traveller sites increased by 41 per cent from January 2010. The Government has also given £200,000 to support projects working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities to tackle discrimination, improve integration, healthcare and education.
[I don’t know where to start with his commentary around the PCSC Bill. Organisations like Amnesty say it’s bad, very bad. It is going to curtail freedom of speech, and put people in prison for speaking out against the Government. 1930’s Germany anyone? See film fro George Monbiot below for more info]
It’s been over a year since I posted on my blog. No excuses really, it’s just been a hectic, rollercoaster 18 months. I’m hoping to post a bit more from now on, on a variety of topics.
I’ve achieved some cool stuff since I last wrote anything. I passed my Level 4 Bushcraft Course (more on Bushcraft plans soon hopefully), finished some work projects, have done loads of climbing, and have been busy with lots of Extinction Rebellion stuff. Despite the pandemic messing lots of things around life goes on, exciting stuff still happens, and friends and family are always there when you need them; have really appreciated support from friends this year, through a few difficult periods.
Oh, and I adopted a rescue cat who keeps me company now I’m working from home permanently. His name is Gideon. He is a menace, but I love him.
What has motivated me to write something again? Local politics mostly. I got annoyed with Councillors talking nonsense and not answering questions, and then with my local MP on a variety of subjects. I thought I’d share the letter I sent him this evening, as I’m sure many of his constituents feel the same way. I also think people need to know more about the disastrous Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will shortly be enacted into Law and seriously restrict our liberties.
Please read on if you’re interested – I’ve tried not to rant too much!
Dear Jerome Mayhew MP,
I am writing to you after you deleted my and several other concerned constituents’ comments from your Facebook page. I will also be forwarding this to members of the Norwich press, inviting them to publish this as an open letter.
On 12 December, you posted on Facebook reflecting on your achievements over the last two years, since you were elected, and on how you’ve stayed true to your commitments. I and many others have commented, politely, challenging some of these views. All of our comments have been deleted. I find this both undemocratic, cowardly, and as one of your constituents a failure on your part to address my concerns.
Have you perhaps been taking classes from Cllr Wilby on not answering questions? He did spectacularly badly at addressing a question on the NDR recently. Or perhaps you agree with Broadland District Tory Councillors, including Cllr Fisher, that there’s no need to declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary?
I shall repeat the comments I raised on Facebook, and would welcome a response.
You claim to be enhancing our local environment, however this is at odds with both your support for the Western Link Road, as well as you and your family’s involvement in the proposed Thorpe Woodlands housing development.
The Western Link Road will destroy ancient woodland, rare chalk stream habitat, endangered Barbastelle bat colonies, and pollute the local landscape. It will increase traffic and emissions because that’s what new roads do. The road is also a blatant move to open up the Norfolk countryside to more development and destruction, for the profit of a few.
Surely public money would be far better invested in green public transport and cycling infrastructure? At a time when more people are working from home, and we need to reduce private car ownership to reduce emissions, it seems crazy to be promoting more car usage.
Turning now to the Thorpe Woodlands housing development. This woodland, a County Wildlife Site, is a remnant of ancient woodland, containing as it does ancient woodland indicator species. It acts as a carbon sink and a refuge for animals and plants to regenerate from, whilst the surrounding countryside is gobbled up by developers. It is very probable that it also acts as a flood defence, absorbing a lot of surface water, for the homes in Dussindale and Thorpe St. Andrew.
You and your family sold this woodland, no doubt for a tidy profit, to developers. This was against the wishes of local residents, many of whom grew up playing in the woods. Broadland District Council refused planning permission. However, the applicants appealed to the central Planning Inspectorate, who overturned local democracy and granted permission. Yet another example of local democracy being ignored for the profit of a small minority, even though Broadland council said the land wasn’t needed for housing.
In the midst of a biodiversity crisis, when the UK has the lowest forest coverage in Europe (13% versus around 38% in the EU), we really need to preserve our remaining woodlands and wild places, habitats and biodiversity. Planting new trees simply cannot make up for established woodland being destroyed; birds and bats can’t nest in saplings surrounded by plastic tubes, trees that will probably die anyway if many of those planted around the NDR are anything to go by.
It appears you are not being entirely successful in protecting the countryside and environment in Norfolk, and certainly not ‘listening to residents’ on this matter.
I’d also like to raise the matter of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC BIll), which is now going through its third reading in the House of Lords. This Bill, which you support, recently had last minute clauses introduced that will mean up to 51 weeks in prison for any sort of protest activity. It also persecutes Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, making their way of life illegal. It’s an attack on freedom of speech, as well as our right to peaceful protest, a right that has won the British people so much over the centuries.
The PCSC Bill, along with the Nationality and Borders Bill (Anti-Refugee Bill), are attacks on civil liberties, freedom, democracy and refugees seeking asylum. The Government is seeking to quash any dissenting voices, to silence anyone that disagrees with them. Protest by its very nature will cause an annoyance and disturb someone. We must heed warnings from history, from the 1930s as countries slid into authoritarianism and fascism after introducing similar and more stringent laws. Can you really, with good conscience, support these Bills, which have been widely condemned by organisations such as Amnesty International?
I appreciate you have been working hard to try to build a ‘Better Broadland’, however not being open to criticism or answering questions from concerned members of the public comes across badly. With the Government increasingly under fire on COVID, having one rule for them and one for everyone else, it must be time to start listening to and engaging with your constituents who have different views, rather than ignoring them.
I look forward to hearing from you.
That’s all for today. I’ll let you know if I get a reply, and hope to write more soon anyway.