Silica valley fury in Snettisham

Farm Land at Ingoldisthorpe ANL-160519-114556009
Farm Land at Ingoldisthorpe ANL-160519-114556009

Villagers are up in arms about the possibility of an area of land between Snettisham and Dersingham being dug up for sand extraction.

A protest group was formed on the spot at Snettisham’s annual parish meeting on Wednesday where concerns raised included adverse effects on the area’s tourism industry, wildlife, traffic, noise and dust.

More than 100 people packed into the Memorial Hall to discuss Norfolk County Council’s Silica Sand Review, which aims to address the predicted shortfall in the quantity of silica sand extraction sites allocated in its Minerals Plan.

Land to the west of Snettisham and Ingoldisthorpe has been identified as one of its preferred options. It is an area of agricultural farmland, includes some smallholdings and woodland and is located between the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Snettisham in the north and Wolferton in the south.

The meeting heard that in addition to this area of land, there were five more areas under consideration in the Downham area.

The county council is legally obliged to have a reserve of silica sand and has been searching for suitable sites for two years and Snettisham Parish Council has responded at each stage of the process.

The county council agreed in April to publish its pre-submission version of the Silica Sand Review which has been published “to allow representations on the soundness and legal compliance” of the document to be made over a six week period which started on Monday.

Parish clerk Simon Bower said it was only on Monday that the parish council had been made aware that the land at Snettisham was still listed while some of the landowners on the proposed site said at the meeting they had had no communication about the matter at all.

Residents expressed concerns about the potential impact on the area. One said: “We are blessed with being in a lovely wildlife area. We have Wolferton, the RSPB reserve, the beach and it is known throughout the country. What would this industry do to this?”

And another said: “This is a huge area for tourists. Will there be pollution from the extraction and what will be left after tearing the land apart?”

Several people were concerned about extra lorry traffic generated from the site and its effects on the A149, already an extremely busy road throughout the summer. Questions were also asked about where access roads to the site would be with Beach Road, Snettisham, having already been ruled out.

There were also questions about whether the land could be subject to compulsory purchase, with one person saying that she had been informed by a county council official that it would not do so without the landowner’s permission. County councillor John Dobson said he would look into this, but said that the borough council may have purchasing power. He said: “If there is a will do something, the local authorities will find a way.”

When asked whether the parish council should be fighting this proposal, there was a unaminous show of hands in favour.

Volunteers stepped forward to join a protest group in order to coordinate a plan of action.