Liz Truss joins campaigners in Marham to view site of controversial quarry proposal
Villagers, campaigners and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss were out in force to campaign against a quarry being placed between Marham and Shouldham.
Miss Truss joined those from the campaign group Campaigners Against Two Silica Sites (CATSS) to view the proposed site for silica extraction.
Sibelco, the company behind the proposal, has said they would pump sand from the site to their processing facility at Leziate.
Over 150 residents attended a meeting at Marham in October to express their concerns, while more than 500 people have signed an online petition against the proposal.
The group are also against the inclusion of a larger area, including Shouldham Warren, as an area of search for the material, which is commonly used in the glassmaking industry.
During the visit to the site on Friday afternoon, Miss Truss spoke to campaigners and walked along the proposed site.
She said: "Firstly, people are concerned with this proposal because it came out of the blue.
"This is a beautiful area and I think a lot of residents are concerned about the quality of life and why is this needed now.
"I want to understand why the county council has been asked to do this."
Miss Truss will be taking a delegation to the local department of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Both the Secretary of State and county council will be approached about the issue.
She added: "You cannot understand the issue if you have not been to the site. It could be officials who are looking at some map either from Norwich or Whitehall who have not seen the actual area."
Among the concerns for campaigners were dust pollution, noise and the impact of property value in the villages.
Alec Seaman, a member of CATSS group and Marham resident said that the proposal affects people living in Pentney and Narborough as well as Shouldham and Marham.
He said silicosis is a major concern about the quarry with vulnerable people such as children and the elderly being susceptible to the silica dust during extraction.
Mr Seaman said: "One concern is the way the county council has gone about doing this. It was passed through very quickly.
"People in the village heard about this during the summer holidays when a lot of people did not have a clue as they were away from the area.
"This proposal will affect the Shouldham recreation ground area which mountain bikers, dog walkers and lots of other people use."
Only 10 households were reportedly sent a letter about the plan, which if approved, is said to be the equivalent of 96 Wembley stadiums.
He continued: "There is a requirement for clear-cut silica but as a country we are now recycling the glass. We have Sibelco saying there is a great need for silica to produce glass and here we are recycling the glass.
"It's a ridiculous situation to be in."
John Sillett, a campaigner from Norfolk Against Fracking was also in attendance to support environmental matters.
However, he said he was being respectful of CATSS being the main protest group for the issue.
He said: "This area has the potential for fracking sand so we are keeping an eye on that. We supported the campaign for West Bilney wood last year to stop a quarry."
Matt Sawyer, who is standing for the Conservatives in the local elections later this year, said he was in attendance as it was his responsibility to represent the views of local residents if he was elected.
Mr Sawyer said: "I have done a lot of knocking on people's doors in the village and the overriding opinion is against the quarry in Marham.
"It shows the power of the people. It is also testament to Liz to be here and support the campaign given the amount that she has on her plate at the moment."
Graham Spark, a Marham resident, said: "It's important that the local MP will support the campaign against the development and it's nice to see it's high on her agenda. It's also important to see all the residents united against the idea."
If the proposal does go ahead, it will be one of the largest quarrying sites in the UK.