West Bilney residents on the silica sand CASE

West Bilney Wood, near East Winch. Photo: Protect West Bilney Wood Facebook page. ANL-161020-115950001
West Bilney Wood, near East Winch. Photo: Protect West Bilney Wood Facebook page. ANL-161020-115950001

An action group has been set up to fight mineral extraction plans for woodland close to a West Norfolk village.

The Campaign Against Silica Extraction (CASE) East Winch and West Bilney has been established after residents packed into a public meeting on the issue last week.

A further meeting has already been planned for early next month.

And the group said: “The sole aim of CASE is to oppose and stop silica extraction in the East Winch and West Bilney area.”

The group has been formed amid growing anger over Norfolk County Council plans to extract silica sand from around 85 hectares of land in the area.

The measure, which is part of a review of its mineral extraction plans, would allow for the boundary of the existing search area, which lies in the parishes of East Winch and Pentney, to be moved northwards.

That would then place the woodland within the search area.

The council maintains the site is suitable to help meet a shortfall of silica sand, which is commonly used to make glassware.

It says: “It is predicted that around 750,000 tonnes of silica sand will be extracted from Norfolk per year and that no more than one or two additional specific sites will need to be allocated over the plan period, to 2026, to meet the shortfall.”

The only areas the material can be extracted from lie within West Norfolk.

Although the formal deadline for comments on the plan passed yesterday afternoon, local residents believe they have not been given a fair chance to make its case against it.

They say the project risks splitting the community in two and poses both environmental and health risks.

They are also concerned about the impact on infrastructure, heritage assets and the way the issue has been handled by local community leaders.

CASE will hold its next meeting at the Carpenters Arms pub on Tuesday, November 8, at 6.30pm.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in the campaign can attend the meeting or email ob1mattbuzz@gmail.com for further details. A Facebook page, called Protect West Bilney Wood, has also been set up.