Residents in Marham and Shouldham met with representatives of mineral extraction company Sibelco on Wednesday to voice their concerns against potential proposals to quarry in the area.

Sibelco has identified a 964-acre site in the parishes. It includes part of Forestry Commission site Shouldham Warren as an area of search for potential quarrying.

Residents say if a quarry was to go ahead in the area it would be ‘a devastating legacy for our children and their children’ and would lead to a loss of ancient footpaths, endangered wildlife and have a massive impact on health and wellbeing.

Martin Wickham, of Campaigners Against Two Silica Sites (CATSS), said: “The quarry they want to build is huge. It would be a travesty. It would be such a big loss if we were to lose that area with its wildlife and footpaths.”

Protestors say the area identified also contains ancient monuments. 

Residents packed Marham Village Hall for the meeting which CATSS member Alec Seaman, of Marham, said was held to give Sibelco representatives the opportunity to talk about its proposals and plans for restoring the area after quarrying and for residents to ask questions.

He said a follow-up community meeting is also planned for Friday at Marham Village Hall at 6.30pm with South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss. 

Ms Truss told YLP: “I have been contacted by a number of constituents in relation to the proposal to quarry around Marham and Shouldham. I know the area well, spending many a weekend enjoying the excellent walking available, and I would question if this is an appropriate location for such extensive quarrying. 

“However, I appreciate that the proposal needs further investigation and that is why I am meeting residents and Norfolk County Council next week to discuss the full implications of this application.”

Mr Seaman added: “We are trying to work with the parish councils and communities to make people aware of what is proposed and the implications.”

Historic England has objected to the plans in the consultation and said: “We have significant concerns for the historic environment in this area.”

Norfolk County Council published a consultation into the proposals which has prompted comments from more than 400 residents. 

The authority’s initial conclusion on the consultation is the site is considered suitable to identify as a ‘Preferred Area’, where a smaller specific site for silica sand extraction could come forward in the future, subject to a planning application.

Sibelco has given a potential start date of 2027 and estimated the extraction rate to be 800,000 to 900,000 tonnes per annum with the full mineral resource at the site potentially extracted within 20 years. 

A Sibelco spokesman said: “These are very early stages. The full consultation process has to run its course and we hope the people engaged will make their feelings known.”

He stressed no planning application had been submitted and the process was part of a legal requirement for authorities to have a minerals plan.