Public Meeting – Friday 12th October 2018
This document has been compiled from notes taken at the meeting. It is not necessarily comprehensive and should not be considered as minutes of the meeting.
The Rt. Hon. Elizabeth Truss MP
Cllr. Graham Middleton Norfolk County Council
Cllr. Michael Howland Kings Lynn Borough Counvcil
Cllr. Geoff Hipperson Kings Lynn Borough Council
Mr. Mike Hurley Sibelco
Members of Marham Parish Council
Around 140 members of the public, some of whom are involved in the campaign group CATSS (Campaign against Two Silica Sites)
The meeting was opened by Cllr Middleton. He explained that he had met with the planning officers of the County Council to try to get answers to questions asked at the last meeting and had received information concerning the planned development. He stated he would be happy to share this with any interested party and arranged to collect e-mail addresses at the end of the meeting.
Elizabeth Truss was then invited to speak and opened by stating that she recognised the high level of concern within the village, not least because of the fact that there was standing room only in the hall. She went on to say that she had been contacted by a number of local residents who had expressed concerns about the consultation process to her.
She went on to say that she had agreed to attend this meeting to investigate the following areas:
The consultation process that had been undertaken
To gauge the strength of local opinion
To begin to investigate what can be done from this point on
She stated that she was keen to hear from both the County Council and Sibelco.
Cllr. Middleton then outlined briefly the consultation process undertaken by the County Council. He stated that he had been told it comprised of 8 stages, the first being the consultation which came out at the end of June. On realising that a lot of people were not made aware of this, an extension was made on the date for submissions. All comments had now been received and the County Council is working on the possible revisions of the Minerals Plan. The next consultation on this will be around mid-February 2019 and again will there will be a six week consultation period.
Mr Middleton stated that he had a legal advice checklist that he would make available, again by e-mail should anyone interested leave their e-mail address.
Ms Truss then asked what criteria the County Council take into consideration when looking at possible mineral sites. Cllr Middleton responded that they the County Council had a statutory duty to identify the possible locations of minerals. He stated that because there is a mineral processing plant in Leziate, the County has to produce enough sand to keep the plant operating.
Ms Truss asked who says the County must produce enough sand, to which Cllr Middleton responded that he thought it was a government directive, but that he would look into it.
Mr Hurley was then invited to speak. He explained that Sibelco already operate a site at Leziate, excavating and processing high quality sand for the glass industry. He stated that there is an ongoing need for more mineral if the plant is to stay in business. It was the responsibility of his company to find appropriate deposits of mineral through engaging in the Mineral Plan process. He explained that currently Sibelco is in the early stages of this process and has not yet reached the planning stage. However, should the proposal go ahead, the plan is to excavate the sand from the site identified between Shouldham and Marham, and transport it by pipeline for processing at Leziate.
Mr Hurley was asked whether Sibelco were operating any other sites extracting silica sand to make clear glass and he stated that sand of a suitable quality was not common, but that they were working two sites near to Leziate. He was asked whether they had identified any other sites in the England and he responded that the only other site was in Surrey. On being asked whether there were definitely no other sites, he answered that there was one site in Scotland.
There followed a number of statements and questions from the floor of the meeting.
It seems this site is a dream site for Sibelco. It answers all their needs. It is both a large deposit and close to their existing site and processing plant. Are they considering other sites?
There is a discrepancy between the government sustainability plan and their development plan. If this proposal goes ahead, Sibelco will be chopping down forests, reducing the environment’s ability to process carbon dioxide and affecting air quality. 2 areas in Kings Lynn are already designated as areas with poor air quality due to traffic. This proposal will worsen the situation. The County Council has a duty to public health.
Mr Hurley responded by saying that there is no proposal at the moment that would affect woodland. That will be considered as part of the planning process. However, when pressed he did agree that there is some woodland on the proposed site that would be affected.
Ms Truss asked what the impact would be for the area. Mr Hurley responded that the Area of Search incudes Shouldham Warren but that the area contained within the proposal does not. He also stated that the processed sand from Leziate is transported by train.
Residents were not informed at the beginning of the process when this area was identified as an Area of Search. Marham Parish Council were told that they did not have to inform residents as this would be undertaken by Norfolk County Council. The County Council only sent letters to the 10 houses closest to the proposed operation and placed a notice in the Eastern Daily Press, a newspaper that is not widely read in this area. This satisfied their obligation but was not in line with County Policies on keeping the public informed. Sibelco are still not giving details about what will happen next.
Ms Truss asked for details of the response from the consultation. Mr Middleton stated that there had been 379 responses of which 366 were objections, 1 was in support and 12 were comments.
Mr Middleton pointed out that SIL02, the area they are looking to exploit, was put forward by Sibelco. He explained that the County Council, as part of their duty to produce a Minerals Plan, use geological maps to identify possible areas where minerals may exist. This information is then made available to commercial companies who may or may not carry out exploratory drilling. Within these larger areas, smaller sites are then identified where a company may wish to undertake extraction. As part of this process a number of factors are taken into account which means that some parts of the larger Area of Search are deleted from the proposal.
A Preferred Area is an area where sand exists, where the company has a wiling landowner and is likely to get planning permission. In this case the area is huge, 12 times the size of any other quarry in Norfolk and likely to be the biggest in England.
Ms Truss asked that if they start on a small area, she presumed that they would just keep going?
Mr Hurley responded by saying that if the glass makers keep on wanting sand, yes.
Ms Truss asked Mr Hurley to explain what the residents could expect?
Mr Hurley replied that at this stage they could not give firm details. However, the expectation was that they would look at a dredging method using an electric dredger, they would create a lake and pump the sand and water back to Leziate through a pipe. They would then return the water through another pipe.
Why hasn’t Anglin Water responded?
Mr Middleton stated that they had been contacted as part of the initial consultation. However, this covered a wider area than just the Shouldham/Marham proposal. Thus the response they made was not considered specific enough to be included.
What was the response from the MOD?
Mr Middleton stated that they recommended working the site and restoring it as a dry site.
It was pointed out that there were consultations on mineral extraction in the 1980’s and 90’s but these did not include any form of mineral extraction on the south side of the River Nar.
Mr Hurley responded that extraction had been going on around Leziate for many years. He was unable to comment as to why this area had not been mentioned before, but that the County Council looked at 15 year segments when developing their mineral plan. He went on to say that as the minerals in one area were exhausted, there was a need to look further afield.
What is the life expectation of the plant in Leziate? Once that plant reaches the end of its life, will a new plant be built at Marham?
Mr Hurley responded that he could not give a date when the existing plant would end, but that given the cost of a new plant, there is no expectation that one would be built in Marham.
Mr Hurley was asked that with 2036 being the end of the current plan, where would more sand come from?
Mr Hurley responded that they are constantly looking for new areas to excavate.
Given that the mineral is likely to be found in a strip going from Leziate, through Marham and on towards Downham Market, extraction may be taking place further and further from the plant at Leziate. At what point will the transport of the glass become uneconomic and will there be a need to build a new processing plant?
Mr Hurley responded that this was far in the future and there were no plans to build a new plant.
Why do we not recycle more and therefore there will be less need for new glass?
The response was that at present 46.7% of glass is recycled in Norfolk. However, recycled glass is not of a high enough quality.
Ms Truss stated that the government is working on plans to improve the collection and disposal of waste. This includes recycling and bottle deposit schemes. The UK is not good enough at this, but Michael Gove is looking into it.
A member of the public stated that we need to be educated about how coloured glass is as good as clear glass for packaging.
Ms Truss stated that she wanted to look at the details of the planning and consultation process and look at ways that it can be stopped.
How does Sibelco reconcile the view of the RAF that they want a dry worked site with their view that they want to excavate using a wet method?
Mr Hurley responded that this would be looked at during the planning stage.
A member of the public pointed out that given there was the likelihood of a large lake close to the site of an active RAF base, should this be brought to the attention of the nation?
As Norfolk County Council have a responsibility to supply sand are they getting money for it?
Mr Middleton replied that no one other than Sibelco will benefit in monetary terms other than the planning fee Norfolk County Council will receive. In response to a second question he added that section 106 may or may not apply. This would be part of the planning stage.
There followed a series of comments:
There has been no mention of restoration at the end of the process. Sibelco have not followed their own plans of suitable restoration with regard to previous sites.
The development will have a negative effect on property prices in the area. Marham will become a quarry settlement.
How can we be sure that there are no backhanders or sweeteners?
Why can’t Sibelco be held responsible for restoration?
This plan is simply destruction.
We are taking everything out of the earth.
We need to care for our planet.
Millions of tons of sand simply to make a profit for Sibelco.
If this was Mr Hurley’s village, he wouldn’t be happy.
I understand there is a need for sand but Sibelco should be made to landscape the area after extraction.
Why were only 10 letters sent out?
Mr Middleton referred to a list of criteria that Sibelco would have to respond to as part of any future planning process. He stated that the company would not carry out any detailed work on these areas until it was agreed that the development could go to the next stage.
This resulted in a member of the public asking whether this checklist had been on operation when Sibelco obtained permission for the excavations at Bawsey. Mr Middleton responded that he felt the legislation would have changed since planning permission was granted for that development in the 1980’s.
Ms Truss stated that she had heard the views expressed at the meeting.
She stated that there are strict laws relating to the planning process and she needed to investigate if the relevant departments are aware of the proposal to create a large lake and a large pipeline between Marham and Leziate. She felt this would have a significant effect on the environment.
She stated that this felt like a juggernaut.
She stated that she had been involved in the incinerator debate at Kings Lynn which had been abandoned.
She intended to go away, look at conflicting government priorities and find out how this fits in environmentally.
She concluded that if here is not local support for this then it should not go ahead.