‘Keep public informed of sand plan in West Norfolk villages’ plea
More needs to be done to ensure residents know the progress of a controversial silica sand extraction plan near two West Norfolk villages, a public meeting has heard.
Around 150 people packed into Marham village hall on Wednesday night to discuss proposals to extract silica sand from land between the village and nearby Shouldham.
Land between Shouldham Warren and Marham Fen has been included in a draft minerals and waste plan for the county, while the warren itself is included in a broader area of search.
Although it is likely to be two years before the plan is finalised, and any extraction would also be subject to a planning application, local residents claim they were not given enough notice of the proposal before an initial consultation this summer.
And many were adamant that Norfolk County Council should write to all residents in the villages to inform them of developments, rather than relying on electronic communications.
Marham resident Alec Seaman argued the authority was at risk of contradicting its own statement of community engagement by not doing more to keep the public informed.
He said: “Norfolk County Council has the addresses. The data is there. It is incumbent on the county council to engage with the community in a meaningful way. It’s got to be appropriate to the community.”
County councillor Graham Middleton, who chaired the meeting, said he had raised the issue with County Hall officials and insisted he would support residents in opposing the plan.
But another resident called for an investigation into why the initial consultation, while borough councillor Geoff Hipperson urged the county council and minerals firm Sibelco, which wants to extract the sand, to publish a timetable of how the issue is expected to progress.
Defence chiefs have also voiced concerns over the plans, which would take place close to RAF Marham.
More than 370 comments were lodged during the initial consultation on the proposed inclusion of land between the villages of Shouldham and Marham in a draft minerals and waste plan for Norfolk.
A document circulated during Wednesday’s public meeting included a comment from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), an operating arm of the Ministry of Defence.
It said the group was worried about how the site might be restored once any extraction is completed.
It said: “DIO Safeguarding is concerned with the development of open water bodies, the creation of wetland habitat, refuse and landfill sites.
“These types of development have the potential to attract large flocking bird species hazardous to aviation safety.”
Mike Hurley, sustainability manager for Sibelco, said initial investigations showed the land had silica sand, which is used in glass making, of similar quality to its site at Leziate.
He said the company’s current plan was for material to be pumped to its processing plant at Leziate.
And he played down concerns about noise and dust, together with their potential health implications, insisting they would not be allowed to operate if it was running at excessively high levels.
But residents claimed people living near the Leziate site had told them they had repeated dust problems, which Mr Hurley denied.
And one speaker from the floor was applauded when she said: “We’ve already got the RAF on one side. Why should we have this on the other. We don’t need all this rubbish.”
Meanwhile, parish councillors said they would discuss proposals for a local referendum at their meeting later this month.
The next stage of the consultation is due to take place early in the new year and a final decision on which sites will be included in the plan, which is intended to cover the period up to 2036, is expected in the autumn of 2020.
A further public meeting, which local MP Elizabeth Truss is expected to attend, is scheduled to take place at Marham village hall next Friday, October 12, at 6.30pm.