Public Meeting 03.10.2018

Public Meeting to Discuss the Proposed Development of a Silica Sand Quarry at Marham and Shouldham    –    3rd 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 meeting was arranged by Marham Parish Council to give residents of Marham and Shouldham the opportunity to question representatives from:

Norfolk County Council

Sibelco, the company with an interest in developing the quarry

Those Present:

CC Graham Middleton            (Norfolk County Council)

Mr Mike Hurley                       (Sibelco)

BC Michael Howland              (Kings Lynn Borough Council)

BC Geoffrey Hipperson                          “

Members of Marham & Shouldham Parish Councils

Around 170  members of the public, some of whom are involved in the campaign group CATSS (Campaigners Against Two Silica Sites)

At the beginning of the meeting a village resident displayed and explained a map outlining the area covered by Norfolk County Council’s Mineral Development Plan and SIL02, the area of interest which the proposed development will cover.  Included in this map were the sites of a number of other local quarries operated by Sibelco.

Cllr Graham Middleton opened the meeting:

He stated that his role was to support the local community and the Parish Council and represent their views at County Council level. 

Norfolk County Council, in line with all other County Councils, was required by National Government to develop a MINERALS PLAN, outlining where various minerals may be found within the County.  In the case of this development it is silica sand.  This was done as a desktop exercise using geological maps and historical information and resulted in the identification of an AREA OF INTEREST. This information was then made available to mining and excavation companies.  In this case, Sibelco, a sand, gravel and clay extraction company, who already have a number of local sites, decided to explore further.  They obtained permission from one or more land owners and drilled test boreholes which identified a quantity of high quality silica sand.  As a result, they submitted a proposal to Norfolk County Council indicating a PREFFERED AREA that they would be interested in exploiting.  This resulted in an INITIAL CONSULTATION with interested parties.   This part of the process has now concluded.

Concern was expressed by a number of members of the public that while satisfying the letter of the law, this consultation was not as comprehensive as it should have been, and residents were either not informed or were informed at a very late stage.  Cllr Middleton accepted this and has raised the matter at County Council level.  He pointed out that Marham Parish Council had also put in place a number of measures in an attempt to ensure that information is shared quickly and comprehensively.

Cllr Middleton explained that there had been 379 responses to the consultation on SIL02 of which 366 were objections, 12 comments and 1 in support.  A full list of the comments made as part of this consultation process can be viewed at:


All of the comments and objections will be looked at by a Norfolk County Council Committee and the plan may be changed to reflect some of the comments made. Due to the number of comments and because this is not the only site on the plan, the next consultation has now been delayed until around Feb 2019. There will also be other parts to the process including pre-submission publication, submission to the Secretary of State, examination and adoption should the plan get as far as any of these stages. Cllr Middleton has agreed to obtain the full list of the process and the intended dates. He also explained the difference between SIL02 which is a Preferred Option Site and AOS which is an Area of Search.


Mr Hurley then addressed the meeting:


He explained that he was the Sustainability Manager for Sibelco with responsibility for obtaining the relevant planning permission for all of their developments.  He stated that Sibelco are a multi-national company who operate 15 sites within the UK extracting industrial minerals including sands, gravels and clays.  The nearest site to this proposed development is at Leziate which extracts and processes sand for use in making clear glass.  He pointed out that the type of silica sand found in the Marham area is not common and there is not enough of it in current reserves to meet the required quota over the coming years, hence the need to develop new resources. 

Mr Hurley stressed that at this point we are between consultation stages.  Should the proposal go ahead, there will be another round of consultation.  If, after this the County Council recommended approval, the company would begin detailed planning before applying for planning permission.  At this stage there would be a further opportunity for the public and other bodies, including organisations such as The Environment Agency, Natural England, the MOD, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the affected Parish Councils to make detailed observations.  If at that stage the proposal were approved the work begin. 

At some point, the proposal may move from a PREFERRED SITE to a SPECIFIC SITE ALLOCATION.  This will identify specific sites within the preferred area where extraction will take place.  It was not made clear at the meeting when or how this would occur. 


Questions from the floor then followed:

Q.  Will either Marham Parish Council or Norfolk County Council benefit from this plan if it goes ahead?

A.  No

Q.  Has a deal been agreed between Marham Parish Council, Norfolk County Council or any of the individual councillors?

A.  No

Q.  What is an Area of Search?

A.  The County Council puts together a MINERAL PLAN.  By looking at geological maps it identifies areas where minerals might be found.  This is then identified within the MINERALS PLAN as an AREA OF SEARCH, where commercial enterprises may wish to explore further.  SIL02 falls within a wider AREA OF SEARCH which includes Shouldham Warren and The Snicks.  Should a company wish to carry out further exploration within an AREA OF SEARCH, they need to obtain the landowner’s permission.  In the case of SIL02 this has been done. 

Q.  Has Sibelco obtained the landowner’s agreement to this development?

A.  Mr Hurley declined to answer this as it was a confidential matter.

Q.  Has Sibelco got the agreement of the County Council or the Parish Councils to proceed?

A.  No.

Q.  Will the County Council undertake to ensure that all affected households are informed of possible developments? Will letters be sent to every household before the next consultation?

A.  Cllr Middleton said he will take that back to NCC.  However, everyone who has sent in a response as part of the consultation process, via email or the web site, will receive updates by email.

Q.  Why did Mr Hurley meet with two parish councillors in July?

A.  Mr Hurley replied, “Because I was asked to”.  

Q.  Is this development likely to have detrimental health outcomes for the population?

A.  This is a matter to be explored as part of the planning permission process.  Strict guidelines exist to control levels of dust, noise and light pollution.  As part of the approval process these would have to be adhered to.  At this stage it is envisaged that the quarry would be worked as a wet operation, therefore any dust would be at nuisance levels and not health affecting. 

Q.  This area has a high rate of health affecting respiratory conditions including COPD and asthma.  The County Council has a duty of care to its residents.  Public Health England and other bodies have high profile initiatives to improve the health of the nation.  How will the development of this quarry affect this duty of care and these initiatives?

A There is no evidence to suggest any health problems and as it is proposed to dredge the sand using a wet process, there will not be any dust.

Q.  The development of this quarry will severely restrict access to the countryside and the right to roam freely. 

A.  If the proposal goes ahead there will be no restriction of access to the countryside.  Any affected footpaths will be re-routed.

Q.  If footpaths are re-routed, it will mean a 7km detour in one direction or a 5km detour in the other direction.  Is this not a restriction?

A.  There is a statutory duty to re-route any affected footpaths.

Q.  A resident of Leziate who sits on the consultation committee with Sibelco has reported significant amounts of dust.

A.  Mr. Hurley stated that he had no knowledge of this observation.

Q.  How many sites does Sibelco operate using the wet extraction method?

A.  Several but none in this country.

Q.  What will happen to the water that is used to transport the sand through the pipes to Leziate?

A.  It will be piped back to the extraction site.

Q.  Have contracts been agreed with the landowners to proceed with the excavation?

A.  Mr Hurley declined to answer this question.  However, it was pointed out that for the site to have proceeded to SIL02, (exploratory drilling), permission must have been given.

Q.  Will the site be operated for 24 hours a day?

A.  Once the site is operational Sibelco would not expect it to operate 24 hours a day.  However, no decision has been taken.  The process is automated with nobody on site so there would be no light pollution.  The pumps extracting the sand would be underwater so the noise would be controlled. 

Q.  What will happen to the hole at the end of the operation?

A.  This will be discussed with the land owners and decided at planning stage.

Q.  Why did Sibelco not win any awards in the 2017 Industry Awards?

A. Mr Hurley replied Sibelco have won awards just not in the group you are referring to.

Q.  Is the site likely to be left in a dangerous and unsightly state as is the site at Bawsey?

A.  Mr Hurley commented that this is due to the proximity of Kings Lynn.

Q.  Award winning sites seem to have been initially purchased by the extraction company and then gifted to organisations such as the RSPB to maintain them.  Will this be the case with this development?

A.  This would be decided at a later stage.

Q.  Has the route for the pipeline between the quarry and Leziate been decided?

A.  No.  This is a matter that will be addressed in the detailed planning stage.

Q.  Will permission be needed from each of the landowners affected by the pipe?

A.  Yes.

Q.  Will the pipe be overground or underground?

A.  This has not been decided.

Q.  What are the key factors that Norfolk County Council must consider now?

A.  They must consider the results of the consultation with the various professional and national bodies and the public.  They must look at the impact assessments made by bodies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency, Historic England etc.  They must also take into consideration the views of local residents.  This will inform their decision as whether to amend the County Minerals Plan or not.

Q.  Can the criteria they will use to inform their decision be devolved to the Parish Council, to allow them to disseminate this to residents?

A.  Cllr Middleton agreed to look into this.

Q.  How did Cllr Middleton intend to report details of this meeting to Norfolk County Council without writing anything down?

A.  Cllr Middleton replied that this was his normal manner of working.  He had a good memory. 

Q. Is this meeting being recorded?

A.  No.  It is not a Parish Council meeting.  However, notes are being taken but not full minutes.

Q. If this goes ahead will the County Council compensate the villagers for the fact that house prices will fall and be harder to sell? Will we see a reduction in Council Tax?

A. Cllr Middleton replied that apart from a planning application fee the County Council will not make any money from the development should it go ahead so therefore the County Council would not be able to compensate or reduce Council Tax.

Q.  Can the County Council produce a timescale clearly setting out the path of events?

A.  Cllr Middleton will attempt to complete a timescale and pass it to the Parish Council for distribution.

Q.  The Ministry of Defence, in their comment stated that they would wish for dry extraction.  The Environment Agency stated that the site would have to be worked wet.  How will Sibelco meet the needs of both?

A.  The extraction process will be decided at the detailed planning stage.

Q.  Have sites that had been identified as Preferred Sites been refused at the planning consent stage?

A.  Yes.

Q.  What is the benefit to the general public if the development were to go ahead?

A.  Provision of sand for the manufacture of clear glass, local jobs, increased public access and greater bio-diversity after the extraction process has been completed.

Q.  Will there be compensation for a possible drop in resident’s property values?

A.  No.

Q.  Has Anglian Water been consulted?

A.  If they were consulted it appears that they didn’t respond.  Cllr Middleton will contact them to ascertain their position. 

Q.  Is there national guidance on the distance from sensitive receptors?

A.  No.  This will depend on a number of variables such as the material being quarried, prevailing wind direction and wind strength.

Q.  How will any information about this matter be disseminated to parishioners?

A.  It is accepted that this has not been as robust a process as it could have been.  Currently within Marham, the Parish Council publishes information on their website and on various parish noticeboards.  Agendas and minutes of Parish Council meetings are published in the same way.  In addition, updates and matters of Marham news are sent by e-mail to those individuals on the e-mail mailing list. To request inclusion on this list please contact:   

Marham Parish Council publishes a parish newsletter, Proposed and Seconded, on a regular basis that is distributed to every house in the village. 

Q.  Will there be a questionnaire on this proposed development involving every house in the village?

A.  This is an agenda item and will be discussed at the next meeting of the Parish Council on 24th October.  

Q.  How will the views of the parishes of Marham and Shouldham be brought to the attention of Norfolk County Council?

A.  Cllr Middleton has spoken to Martin Wilby, the Chairman of the relevant committee (EDT Committee).  However, members of the public are free to contact the Chairman of the EDT committee directly by e-mail at Norfolk County Council. 

Q.  Would it be possible to invite the chairman or an officer of the planning committee to attend a meeting like this? 

A.  Cllr Middleton will look into this.  He suggested that Martin Wilby, the chairman of the EDT Committee and a planning officer could be invited to a future meeting. 

Q.  How can concerns and questions be brought to the attention of the Parish Council?

A.  The public are free to attend parish council meetings and provision is made for them to speak.  Letters and e-mails could form another vehicle of communication.

Q.  If Sibelco recognise the strength of feeling of the residents of Marham and Shouldham, will they still proceed?

A.  The views of local residents and the parish councils will be taken into consideration, but the company has a duty to extract minerals.

Q.  How would Mr Hurley like it if it was happening on his doorstep?

A.  Mr Hurley replied he feels he has enough knowledge to realise this would not have any effect on him.

Q.  Is there a facility at this stage to make further objections?

A.  Not at this stage, but there will be the opportunity at the next consultation stage, expected in February.


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