Controversial reservoir plans to be re-submitted

Chris Hill An agricultural estate hoping to excavate 750,000 tonnes of sand and gravel from the north Norfolk countryside has redrawn its plans in response to staunch opposition from surrounding villages.

Chris Hill

An agricultural estate hoping to excavate 750,000 tonnes of sand and gravel from the north Norfolk countryside has redrawn its plans in response to opposition from neighbouring villages.

The Stody Estate, near Holt, wants to dig two new linked reservoirs to store 70 million gallons of irrigation water, with the resulting minerals and gravel sold off to help fund the project.

But initial proposals met with staunch resistance from homeowners in Briston and Melton Constable, who feared the extra truck movements during the estimated eight-year duration of the project would blight their lives and endanger road safety.

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In November, the traffic concerns were a key factor in Norfolk County Council's planning regulatory committee's decision to refuse the application - even though council officers said the scheme was in line with planning and environmental policies.

Now the estate is preparing to submit a modified application which includes three measures designed to allay the villages' fears:

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A routing agreement to restrict westbound lorries to local deliveries only within a six mile radius, with deliveries outside this area prevented from using the B1354 westwards through Briston and Melton Constable.

Westbound lorries would not be allowed to leave during the drop-off and pick-up times at Astley Primary School in Briston.

Proposed output has been reduced from 100,000 to 70,000 tonnes annually, reducing vehicle movements to an average of 28 per day - of which only six may go west on the B1354.

Estate manager Ross Haddow said, if the proposals were given the go-ahead, the reduction in traffic movements would mean a “minimal impact” on the village roads, but could extend the construction period to as much as 12 years.

He said: “Stody Estate wants to be a good neighbour and by incorporating these changes into the original application we believe we have gone a long way to answering the local community's concerns.”

Mr Haddow said the reservoirs were vital to sustain the estate's production while reducing the amount of water abstracted from the protected River Glaven during low water flows. “This is all about water,” he said. “The vegetable crops that we grow on the Stody Estate depend on water for proper growth, particularly during dry summers.”

The amended plans brought a cautious welcome from the scheme's opponents.

Grant Martinez, a Briston resident and a governor at the Astley School, said: “It sounds like a reasonable compromise for the school and for the villages. What we have to do now is make sure these are not empty promises and we need to check the reality of what is being offered. As soon as the estate puts in the application we will be able to see the real detail.”

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