Dozens march against West Bilney wood sand extraction plan

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Dozens of supporters have joined a protest walk against proposals to extract silica sand from an area of ancient woodland near Lynn.

More than 80 people took part in the demonstration at the West Bilney Wood yesterday, as part of an ongoing campaign by residents against the scheme.

Around 85 hectares of land would be used to extract the material under Norfolk County Council’s proposals.

The authority maintains the land is suitable for the work and the sand can only be extracted within West Norfolk.

But Matthew Owsley-Brown, of the Campaign Against Silica Extraction (CASE), told the protest that would inevitably lead to the felling of the majority of trees in the wood and turning the woodland into a huge mining operation.

He said: “Not only would it destroy an increasingly rare swathe of woodland, but it would also increase the heavy traffic on these quiet, narrow country lanes and cause even worse traffic flow on the A47.”

Environmental campaigners from Norwich, who are lobbying against potential fracking schemes in the county, also joined the walk, claiming that county officials did not understand how much woodland areas like West Bilney were valued by the community.

They were joined by members of several groups who use the woods for recreational activities.

Toby Coke, county councillor for Gayton and the Nar Valley and Jim Moriarty, West Norfolk councillor for the Priory Ward, both joined the walk to gather local opinion and see the woods for themselves.

The walk is the first in a series of events planned to highlight the value of the woods to the community.

Sarah Juggins, one of the organisers, said: “These woods and other spaces like this are just so important to people’s physical and mental well-being.

“When I come to these woods, whether it is to run or bike or simply to walk the dog, you can feel your body rebalancing.”