Belmore Park Charrette

Well the Charrette has run its course and the Final presentation was given last evening in the Duke Street Lecture Hall. Even the layout cobbled together in eight days was better than any of the design work that we have witnessed around here for decades  Was it too good to be true, you bet it was.

It was a very slick, American style presentation which would have done credit to any new town realtor.  The presenter Andres Duany was an aggressive little man who seemed to think that the protestations of a week ago should have been silenced by his brilliance and the concept he had used.  Perhaps he was tired, the link to Burnham Market seemed trite and a bit tenuous.

Instead, it was still the destruction of the plantations and the urbanisation of the countryside.  The building of an american style housing estate where the plot size is not an issue seemed to presume money was no object.  That could be its downfall.  Unfortunately, this is not the US and there is no compensatory wilderness.  Once the woods have gone, they have gone.  If you take a look on Google Earth you will see that this will consume a larger area of woods than Mousehold Heath.  It is no use pretending that roads, houses, streetlights and all the other trappings of urbanisation will be assimilated into these woods.

One thing it did was to put the performance of Broadland District Council in the spotlight.  Broadland District Council and UK builders, who have given us Thorpe Marriott, Dussindale and now their greatest folly the Growth Triangle.  Every one littered with failed promises and poor execution.  In truth they are not equipped to do anything else.

These designers have done in eight days in public what others hide until they spring a planning application on us all.  They also identified for the audience the huge developments, Broadland is trying to foist on us from Beeston Park to Cheery Tree Farm.  What was outstandingly incongruous was the pathetic looking ECO Town and the NDR which were rubbished roundly.

This is still the destruction of the Racecourse and Belmore Plantations for the sake of creating an up market estate, which also reflected the american predilection for a car based economy. It tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to address the huge traffic problems which this and other developments will cause   You think that is an exaggeration,  well not only was the road connectivity so important to them they also produced an alternative plan to the NDR.  Remember the GNDP had no plan B.  Watch out this might become part of it!

The ecology was pretty well dismissed.  It seemed to be a low priority as manifested by the derision heaped upon proposed coded house building standards; the joking dismissal of deer as a pest and the assumption that residual wildlife colonies in the estate would be sustainable.  Typical, it seems of the world of the developer.

Can you do such a project in eight days?   I doubt it, but this was intended to create controversy and it has.  It has also set a dangerous precedent which includes the presumption that this amount of growth concentrated in one place is sensible.  There is also the risk that the razzmatazz overshadows everything else.


  1. I don't think I have EVER been to a presentation where the presenter was so RUDE! If this is the American way you can keep it! Mr Du'any was very careful not to allow any opposition to flow and very carefully stopped any surge of agreement by not allowing those with a like minded opinion to speak until the momentum had been lost. Very clever man but not to be trusted I fear.At least he was honest that he had been employed to get planning permission for a site where it was likely to be refused if normal planning techniques were employed. I do appreciate such honesty.
    The actual Charrette process was a breath of fresh air and I welcome this with open arms. However, the site is far too important as it presently is, with the wealth of wildlife and plants that would be destroyed if this is developed. These must be protected.

    Nice planning process - wrong place!!!

  2. Well, I agree with most of the first comment, but I can't agree that the 'charrette' was a breath of fresh air, or that it is to be welcomed. Instead, it is simply a 'clever' way of attempting to neutralise local opposition before the proper planning process even starts.

    What does the 'charrette' process mean, according to those behind it in this instance? They say it was an eight day process by which they started with nothing and ended up with a plan, after having gathered the views and input of as many of the local population and their representatives as wanted to take part.

    I visited the 2nd floor of Gunton Hall at the Art Collece (NUCA) yesterday afternoon. I spoke to Gail (Mayhew?), who was initially very keen to explain how their plans would bring great benefits to everyone. During the course of our conversation she told me she had been working on these plans for 10 years - yes, TEN YEARS. When I persited in asking about the ecological impact, she became edgy and avoided answering my questions. I asked whether they had had an ecological survey done and she replied that of course they had. When I asked if I could see it, she told me the session was closed and I had to leave: a colleague came over to 'rescue' her, saying she was needed elsewhere. As I left I asked the girl on the desk downstairs if the session was now closed - she didn't know anything about it and said that, as far as she knew, it was still open to the public.

    So it doesn't look as if the "eight days" quoted by Andres Duany meant anything other than the number of days he had been in Norwich. Not merely the concept, but quite a lot of the substance of the plan had been in existence long before he was flown in to our insignificant, backward little city full of pessimistic, paranoidly suspicious inbreds (as more than just his body language revealed of his thoughts last night).

    His 'presentation' consisted of typical corporate bullshit and a carefully fabricated web of misinformation. A bit strong? Well how about this: He told us the plan they'd come up with was for 631 houses. He then said that the housing density would be 3.1 houses per acre. He told us that the total area of the three plantations is 200 acres.

    Well, Andres, you do the math, as you'd say. 631 units at 3.1 units/acre = 200 acres - well done. But you told us that over 50% of the site would not be developed but would be retained as woodland or 'parkland'. So the actual housing density, on the proportion of land that would be built on, would exceed you "3.1 units per acre" by over 100%.

    Hey, if you'd included all the fields between Thorpe and Rackheath, you could have got the density down to less than 0.1 units per acre!

    Duany avoided answering any questions raised about the ecological impact of his scheme on the woodlands. The ecological question is their Achilles heel: they know or understand nothing about the subject and get very uncomfortable when any questions are asked about it. Their tactic is to change the subject as quickly as possible. They know they are on very shaky ground here.

    It is the PRINCIPLE of building in the woodland that should be opposed, not the details about what the development should be like. They are comfortable when addressing matters relating to architecture, housing development planning etc. But they can't justify the concept of destroying ecologically important woodland. It is this we should concentrate on, as it is this that is the principal objection.

    These woodlands are important. They matter a lot. What they want to do would permanently ruin them.

  3. Did you see the comment attributed to the said Mr Duany in the Evening News. I think it shows his contempt for his audience.

    "You people have the least hope and vision of any I know..."

    No Sir, we just have a different vision.

    It might not coincide with the one Archant want to portay either. They could only find one unnamed person who opposed these plans so either they were not there or they only heard what they wanted to. There was plenty of soundly based opposition.

  4. Just read the EEN. Did they attend the same meeting that we all went to ?
    Liked the American's comment on the awful planning in the NE Triangle as well as the terrible Hi-Density Ecotown and the Level Six housing which he thinks will be scrapped as unaffordable

  5. Hope Broadland DC were present and heard the US Consultants views on their awful planning and the Ecotown in the NE Triangle, as well as the total lack of infrastructure. His views on the destruction of our valuable woodland were also quite frightening.

  6. The problem with the ‘charette’ was that it had no room for the view that the whole wood should be preserved for ecological reasons. If one was to participate, you had to buy into the idea that quite a lot of the wood was to be built on or you wouldn’t be listened to. Such decimation of the wood and its overwhelming closeness to increased human habitation and activity, would adversely affect the ecology of the remnants of the wood.

    The blank sheet that we were promised was nonsense, as the first plan to come out showed the wood filled with housing before modifications were eventually made. It would be easy for the planning authorities to get the impression that the plan as shown on Tuesday at the end of the charette, reflected the views of the local community when this just wasn’t the case.

    Andres Duaney kept saying that the charette process wasn’t a debate about whether or not to develop; it was based on the presumption that development would happen and also was a good thing. This presumption, I believe put off the majority of people from going to the open public forum on Thursday. [One slot of three hours after work hours in eight days, with the lack of warning we got, is hardly serious consultation]

    The charette, far from being a credible reflection of public in-put and agreement was a very flawed a deceptive process and should be seen as such.

  7. A brief point re. the Evening news & EDP's coverage of Tuesday's 'final presentation': I was sitting 3 rows up by the door. The Archant reporter & photographer stood by the door most of the time. By 9pm the reporter kept looking anxiously at his watch, and well before 9.30, he and the photographer left. The remarks, questions & criticisms from the audience on ecological matters etc weren't made until after this time, so the reporter missed it all. Letters to the papers putting things straight would be good.

  8. Well, I think I need to take back the comment about the planning process being a breath of fresh air! I was duped into believing that this process did involve openess and input from the public. To deceive was obviously their intention. Damn these people! They are motivated by money and have no interest in the ecology or wildlife within the forest. I can feel a letter coming on to the EDP!

  9. The more of these articles I've read of late the more angry I'm getting. Frankly these people don't give a damn about Norfolk, they don't care about the environment, the wildlife, peoples way of life or Green issues.
    Norwich is working towards being a transition city, yet these people want to cut-off any chance we have of building sustainable communities and building housing in places it would be welcome (look at the state of Anglia Square for example - you could knock down the HM Stationary Office building and build some decent housing, near the city and near public transport).

    Good luck all of you, I know how Kett felt in 1549 now.

  10. Thanks for the update. I really appreciate the efforts you have made for this blog.