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Quarry? Not in our woodland

PUBLISHED: 19:24 11 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:00 07 July 2010

East Wretham parish council chairman John Kitson, left, and Great Hockham parish council chairman Chris Garrod with a protest banner.

East Wretham parish council chairman John Kitson, left, and Great Hockham parish council chairman Chris Garrod with a protest banner.

More than 100 people turned out on Sunday in a bid to crush moves to turn an area of woodland into a massive quarry and waste site.

Hockham Wood is one of more than 100 potential mineral extraction sites and 64 waste management sites identified by Norfolk County Council to meet gravel, sand and waste disposal needs for the 78,700 homes outlined for the county up to 2021.

More than 100 people turned out on Sunday in a bid to crush moves to turn an area of woodland into a massive quarry and waste site.

Hockham Wood is one of more than 100 potential mineral extraction sites and 64 waste management sites identified by Norfolk County Council to meet gravel, sand and waste disposal needs for the 78,700 homes outlined for the county up to 2021.

Local people are aghast at the proposals which would see the destruction of 316 acres of forestry and woodland at Hockham and the building of a large industrial complex which would include a concrete batching plant, an asphalt plant and an aggregate-processing plant.

Residents have formed Hockham and Wretham in Tandem Against Gravel Extraction Action Group (Hawitage) and large yellow banners were put up along the A1075 around the perimeter of the site calling for the county council's plans to be abandoned.

The Forestry Commission-owned site has triple status as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and been designated as a Special Protection Area under European legislation.

No final decisions about sites have been taken and the county council is seeking views from the public.

John Kitson, chairman of Wretham Parish Council, said the large turnout reflected the “enormous” strength of feeling among local people about the plans.

He said that Wretham and Hockham parish councils were working together to fight the scheme and warned that the proposals could affect a number of other villages in the area, with heavy lorries transporting gravel and waste rumbling to and from the site.

“They want to mine sand and gravel and when that is done fill it in with inert waste, such as concrete,” he said. “This is not just for the next year or so. This could go on for decades.”

Mr Kitson added: “We have suggested that the Forestry Commission is more concerned with making money out of the site than they are pursuing their role as guardians of the natural world.”

Chris Garrod, chairman of Hockham Parish Council, criticised the length of time given for residents to launch objections to the scheme.

“We have been given six weeks to make our point, which is not long enough,” he said. “Six weeks in winter is very hard to establish whether a species that was there two or three years ago is still there.”

Both men are urging residents to lodge their own objections to the plans. Mr Garrod also pointed out that moto-cross riders who use the wood would lose their venue if the plans go ahead.

People concerned about the proposals are also being invited to attend a Wretham Parish Council meeting tomorrow at 7pm in the village hall.

A website set up at the weekend to provide an opposition focus to the quarry had notched up 2000 hits by the time of its official launch on Monday night.

And a 10, Downing Street on line petition has already reached the 200-signature mark, meaning a government minister will have to respond to local anxieties.

Monday night saw over 120 cram in to Hockham's Edinburgh Hall to hear the latest moves by the Action Group to get the site dropped now rather than end up on the list of preferred sites for use up to 2021.

The website carries information about the local proposals, petitions and officials and bodies already contacted. Most importantly for local people wanting to object, it has downloaded the county council's own comment forms which people can use between now and when the comment period closes at 5pm on March 28.

The website can be found at www.hawitage.co.uk .

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