Hope for communities facing extraction plans
Thousands of people have been given fresh hope that they will be saved from the blight of sand and gravel extraction following a decision by Norfolk County Council to reduce the amount of minerals required.
Members of the council's cabinet and full council agreed to reduce the amount of sand and gravel to be extracted in the county by one fifth, from 34.6 million tonnes to 28.2 million tonnes.
Plans for non-hazardous waste will also be reduced from 38.3 million tonnes to 26 million tonnes. The plans also included an increase in the quantity of silica sand to be extracted, from three million tonnes, to 6.4 million tonnes and will form a framework for minerals and waste planning decisions in Norfolk until 2026. Two years ago the county council asked landowners and quarry operators to provide suggestions of areas for extraction sites to meet government requirements for the supply of aggregate for the next decade.
The list stirred up a number of protests and petitions throughout the heart of the county in a bid to protect the landscape from becoming riddled with gaping holes for sand and gravel extraction.
While the recent news brings a glimmer of hope to those affected, the effect on each location is unlikely to be known until at least early next year.
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Waveney Forest was one of more than 100 sites across the county proposed for a possible quarry, and Kent-based company Bretts Aggregates, submitted plans for the woods in December last year. The Fritton Woods action group last month delivered a list of almost 2,000 signatures against the plans to former Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox in a bid to draw attention to the proposal.
Fritton parish council leader Keith Nunn said he was cautious about the latest news and described the wait to hear if the campaign would be successful as 'purgatory'. 'It offers us a grain of hope, but then you have to ask whether it is enough,' he said. 'In our opinion we should not be on the list in the first place.
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'We've got reasons of health and European protected forest and all sorts of things, but we know better than to be too hopeful. You can never guarantee anything.'
These latest changes to the Minerals and Waste Core Strategy follow the coalition government's withdrawal of the East of England Plan, which included policies relating to mineral and waste planning, in July this year. The reduced quantities, which will lead to revisions in site allocation, will be subject to further consultation early next year.
Neil Paddock, chairman of the East Winch Action Group which has fought against a site to the west of the village, has also fought a vociferous campaign since the list first came to light.
And others in the pipeline include Briston and Melton Constable in north Norfolk, in which an agricultural estate was hoping to excavate 750,000 tonnes of sand and gravel from two linked reservoirs.
Norfolk County Council is now inviting people to have their say on the recent decision, which takes into account public comments received over the summer, by December 17.
People can comment by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/nmwdf.