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MP shares fears over Stody estate plans

PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:41 07 July 2010

North Norfolk's MP told a public meeting he shared villagers' “serious concerns” over plans to dig two agricultural reservoirs and transport the resulting gravel past homes and schools.

North Norfolk's MP told a public meeting he shared villagers' “serious concerns” over plans to dig two agricultural reservoirs and transport the resulting gravel past homes and schools.

The Stody Estate wants to store 70 million gallons of irrigation water drawn from the protected River Glaven during winter peak flows, reducing the environmental impact of taking it in summer.

The planned excavations would result in up to 750,000 tonnes of mineral sand and gravel which the estate hopes to sell to commercial users to help fund the project.

But the proposal has angered homeowners in Briston and Melton Constable who fear the estimated 40 daily truck movements for the 10 years of work would blight their lives with noise and dust and endanger road safety.

But estate managers said the move was vital to ensure the viability of their business as licensing changes threatened their ability to abstract water during the summer when it was needed to irrigate vegetable crops.

MP Norman Lamb was among about 200 people at Friday's meeting at Astley Primary School, Briston.

He said: “The Stody Estate has every right to make this application and every right to plan for the future.

“But you have legitimate concerns here. If I were living here I would be very worried about this application. There is no other way of looking at it.

“The real problem is that the traffic is already too great and this will add to the HGVs going through that community.”

Briston resident Tony Serne said: “This application has nothing to do with the construction of a reservoir and everything to do with extraction of sand and gravel for profit.

“The people living close to this sand and gravel pit will be subjected to the noise and traffic and it will be a blight on the value of their properties.”

Other villagers questioned the proposed vehicle access and raised particular concerns about the safety of schoolchildren on the roads.

But mineral planning consultant Douglas Symes said policy guidelines directed them to use the nearest distributor road, identified as the B1354 which connects Briston and Melton Constable.

“This project is driven by water, not by mineral extraction,” he said. “If it were, we would have looked for a better location.”

Adel MacNicol, whose family owns the estate, said: “I firmly believe the long-term prosperity of arable farming depends on being able to find sufficient irrigation for our wide variety of crops.

“I and my family place a very high value on the environment and the community in which we live. If I believed the destruction was anywhere near what you have been led to believe we would not even begin this project.”

Villagers also queried the validity of noise and traffic reports contained in the estate's planning application.

Norfolk County Council planning services manager Nick Johnson said any information gathered would be scrutinised before councillors made a decision.

Estate manager Ross Haddow said the licences previously held for summer water abstraction were under threat as the Environment Agency sought to improve water courses like the River Glaven.

He said: “It is integral to the estate to grow these crops and it is essential we are able to irrigate our products if we are going to be able to sell them.”


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