Councillors advised to approve controversial gravel plan

A farming estate's controversial plan to excavate 750,000 tonnes of sand and gravel from the north Norfolk countryside will be recommended for approval when decision-makers meet on Friday.

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

The scheme prompted a storm of criticism from homeowners in the nearby villages of Briston and Melton Constable, who feared the constant flow of trucks would blight their communities and cause safety problems on narrow roads.

Estate bosses were forced to redraw their initial plans after they were rejected in November because councillors felt the adverse impact of additional traffic outweighed the need for the reservoirs and the resulting environmental benefits.

The amended scheme includes compromises aimed at easing the community concerns, including:

?A routing agreement stating that the B1354 will only be used by lorries delivering within a six-mile radius.

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

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?Proposed output has been reduced from 100,000 to 70,000 tonnes per year, reducing vehicle movements to an average of 28 per day.

A report to Norfolk County Council's planning regulatory committee says no formal objections have been lodged by the Environment Agency, Natural England, or highways officials.

Councillors have been advised to approve the revised proposals, subject to a raft of conditions including a 12-year time limit for the works and agreed limits on working hours, noise limits, dust control and nature conservation measures.

The report says: 'Taking into account the development plan policies and all other material considerations, it is considered that the revised application represents an acceptable form of development and there are no issues of sufficient weight to justify a refusal of planning permission.'

The scheme has brought 129 letters of objection, with two letters of support.

The objectors include Briston and Melton Constable parish councils, and Briston resident Robert Simmons, whose letter says: 'Irrespective of the further application from the Stody Estate for a slightly amended projected additional traffic load on that road, it strikes me that the suitability of the B1354 to carry current levels of traffic is a major concern to a significant number of parishioners.'

The response from highways officers in the report says: 'It is considered that the B1354 is suitable to carry the predicted levels of HGV traffic.'