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West Norfolk villages urged to join silica sand site fight

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Residents who are fighting proposals for a major silica sand extraction plan close to two West Norfolk villages have urged neighbouring communities to join the fight.

Dozens of people from Shouldham and Marham attended a meeting at the King’s Arms pub on Thursday, following the formation of an action group against the idea.

But, although an initial consultation on the proposal ends later this week, it could be nearly a decade before any material is taken from the area.

Shouldham village - the village sign.. (3572944)
Shouldham village - the village sign.. (3572944)

Campaigners are angry about proposals to extract silica sand from more than 200 hectares of land between Shouldham and Marham.

The site forms part of Norfolk County Council’s draft strategy for mineral extraction in the county in the period up to 2036, while a much larger plot of land is also included as an area of search.

The report estimates the site could provide up to 16 million tonnes of silica sand, a vital raw material for glassmaking. Norfolk is known as a key supplier of the material.

But objectors say the development could affect people living in several other villages, including Narborough, Pentney, Wormegay and Watlington if it is allowed to proceed and the meeting heard calls for residents in those communities to join the campaign.

An action group has already been established against the plan and more than 200 have signed an online petition against it.

Marham resident Alec Seaman told the meeting that opposition to the scheme needed to be co-ordinated locally.

He said: “Nobody is going to do this for us. We’re going to have to do it ourselves.”

He also urged residents not to accept any potential concessions that may favour one village or the other.

He said: “We’re in this together. A solution that suits one of us doesn’t suit any of us.”

The site plan says Sibelco, the company who has proposed the site, claims that extraction could start there in 2027.

An initial public consultation on the site has been extended until this Friday.

But Graham Middleton, the area’s county councillor, said at least two more consultations would be undertaken during the process and a final decision on the strategy was not expected until the autumn of 2020.

He said that, even if the site was still in the plan after that, a potential developer would still have to obtain planning permission to work on it thereafter.

And he pledged to back objectors if the “general opinion” of the villages was to oppose the scheme.

He added: “Sibelco themselves are a very long way off coming up with a workable plan.”

Comments can be submitted to the county council online, at norfolk.jdiconsult.net/localplan/, via email to LDF@norfolk.gov.uk, or by writing to Planning Services, CES, Norfolk County Council, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2SG.

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