Minerals and Waste Local Plan: Pre-Submission Publication
3. Norfolk Spatial Portrait
3.1 The purpose of this chapter is to set out the spatial context for the Minerals and Waste Local Plan Review by providing a summary of the characteristics of Norfolk that have an influence on waste arisings, how and where waste can be managed, the need for minerals and where minerals can be extracted and processed.
3.2 Within the County of Norfolk, the two-tier administrative system includes seven District Council areas, each of which is a Local Planning Authority. Overlaying parts of five of these areas is the Broads Authority, which is also a Local Planning Authority. Norfolk also contains 535 parishes. Norfolk adjoins the County of Suffolk to the south, and Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire to the west; whilst Norfolk's north-west, north and eastern boundaries border the North Sea.
3.3 The population of Norfolk was estimated to be 914,039 in 2020, compared with 857,888 in the 2011 census. Its area is 5,370 km2 and the population density was 170 people per km2 in 2020. Around 43 per cent of the County's population live in the four main urban areas of Norwich (233,023) Great Yarmouth (74,236), King's Lynn (48,301) and Thetford (27,010) (2020 ONS population estimates). Norfolk's population has a relatively elderly age profile; compared to England and Wales it has higher proportions of people aged 50 and over, and lower proportions in all the younger age groups.
3.4 By 2038 the population of Norfolk is expected to grow to over 1.09 million. Much of this growth is driven by net inward migration and an increase in the aging population.
3.5 Issues which could affect Norfolk's population from mineral extraction and associated development and waste management activities, include amenity problems such as noise, dust, odour, birds, litter and visual intrusion. Therefore, the location, design and operation of minerals and waste management development is an important way to avoid and mitigate potential amenity impacts to local residents.
3.6 The Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for new housing in Norfolk (based on the standard national methodology in the National Planning Policy Framework) for the 21 years from 2015-2036 is calculated to be over 87,000 homes. This equates to a need for over 4,100 new homes to be built each year in Norfolk. In addition to this OAN, Broadland, Norwich City and South Norfolk Councils will seek to deliver an additional supply of homes within the Greater Norwich Local Plan to ensure the housing needs arising from the City Deal are met in full.
3.7 The settlement hierarchy is defined by the Local Planning Authorities in Norfolk. The settlement hierarchy ranks settlements according to their size, range of services and facilities, and their capacity for growth. The highest levels of housing growth are planned to be located in the settlements at the top of the hierarchy (urban areas and main towns). The urban areas in Norfolk are Norwich, King's Lynn (including West Lynn), Thetford, Attleborough, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston-on-Sea. The Norwich urban area includes the built-up parts of the urban fringe parishes of Colney, Costessey, Cringleford, Trowse, Thorpe St Andrew, Sprowston, Old Catton, Hellesdon, Drayton and Taverham. The main towns in Norfolk are Aylsham, Cromer, Dereham, Diss, Downham Market, Fakenham, Harleston, Holt, Hunstanton, North Walsham, Swaffham, Watton and Wymondham.
3.8 Overall Norfolk has a relatively high level of self-containment as the vast majority of the resident workforce stay in Norfolk for work, although there are some strong functional cross-boundary linkages, in particular between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and between King's Lynn and the Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire Fens. Norfolk is a rural county and agriculture is the dominant land use. However, the majority of jobs in Norfolk are located in urban areas, with agriculture only accounting for less than 1 percent.
3.9 Overall Norfolk's economy is growing, although growth is stronger in some parts of the County than others. This growth is driven by certain sectors of the economy, mostly concentrated in specific geographic areas, where there are particular strengths and expertise, for example, offshore energy, advanced engineering, tech/digital, financial services, food, life sciences and tourism. Norfolk's overall employment rates have consistently remained above national levels over the past 10 years. However, this disguises substantial variation as the county includes some of the most deprived communities in the country.
3.10 In December 2013 the Greater Norwich City Deal was signed. The City Deal was expected to see 300 new businesses supported and secure an additional £100 million of private investment. The deal was also expected to create more than 19,000 jobs, including 6,000 construction jobs.
3.11 The minerals industry in Norfolk provides raw materials for the construction of buildings and roads and for glass manufacture. The provision of the steady and adequate supply of minerals and the management of waste produced by businesses and communities constitutes essential infrastructure to support the economic development of the County.
3.12 Norfolk contains three trunk roads, the A11, A47 and A12. Norfolk's transport infrastructure has benefited from a number of significant improvements in recent years, including the dualling of the A11 which was completed in 2014. The Norwich Northern Distributor Road (Broadland Northway) opened in 2018 and is a key part of the Norwich Area Transport Strategy. The National Highways Delivery Plan 2020-2025 contains a number of improvement schemes for the A47 to take place by 2025. Construction of the Long Stratton bypass on the A140 is expected to be underway during 2023. However, the majority of Norfolk's roads are B class or below and therefore it is important that minerals and waste management development are located in places where there is appropriate and safe highway access. Norfolk has two ports, at Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn. These ports can be used for the import and export of minerals and waste. Norfolk's railway lines can also be used for the movement of minerals and waste to and from the county. At the current time waste is not transported by rail in Norfolk, but silica sand is transported out of the county to glass manufacturers by rail and hard rock is imported to Norfolk by rail.
3.13 Norfolk is a county rich in important wildlife and designated landscapes. Norfolk contains a wide range of habitats including grasslands, woodlands, heathland, rivers and wetlands, farmland and coastal waters. The wider countryside also supports a considerable number of sites of local importance and has potential for habitat creation. Norfolk is home to numerous local, national, and international biodiversity designations and is an area of high landscape quality. There are nine Special Protection Areas (SPAs), twelve Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 163 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), as well as over 1,360 County Wildlife Sites. Significant habitats include the Wash, the Broads, The Brecks and the Fens.
3.14 Norfolk has 90 miles of coast and the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) runs, with a few breaks, from King's Lynn in the west along the coast to Winterton in the east, and covers 450 square km. Part of the Norfolk coast is also defined as a Heritage Coast which means that it is one of the best stretches of undeveloped coast in England. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads covers 303 km2 of Norfolk and Suffolk and has the status of a National Park.
3.15 Norfolk is nationally important for its geodiversity, particularly sites and features relating to the story of environmental change (including fauna, flora, climate and early human occupation) over the last two million years. Norfolk has important sites and features dating from the Cretaceous period, including the youngest chalk strata in Britain. It also has spectacular geomorphology, including the 40km stretch of coastal landforms on the north coast. Many of these sites and features have been designated as geological or geomorphological SSSIs.
3.16 Norfolk's countryside is predominantly agricultural in character. The areas to the east and north of Norwich contains generally excellent to very good soils. The area known as the Brecks surrounding Thetford contains generally poor or very poor soils. The Fens, to the west of King's Lynn contains virtually entirely excellent or very good soils. The majority of the remaining soils in Norfolk are moderate to good quality.
3.17 Minerals extraction and associated development and waste management facilities should be located, designed and operated to ensure no unacceptable adverse impacts to the natural environment.
3.18 Air quality throughout Norfolk is generally good and problems arise only on a localised basis. Norfolk currently (2021) contains four Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), one in Norwich, one in Swaffham and two in King's Lynn, which have all been declared for exceeding limits of nitrogen dioxide from traffic sources. Mineral extraction and associated development and waste management facilities should be located, designed and operated to ensure no unacceptable adverse impacts to air quality.
3.19 Norfolk is an area of historical importance and has a rich and diverse history. Norfolk has over 280 conservation areas, more than 10,900 listed buildings, more than 430 scheduled monuments and more than 50 Registered Parks and Gardens. Norfolk also contains a large number of areas in which either undesignated heritage assets or archaeological assets occur. Archaeological assets may either be known or unknown where the potential for assets is high, but no field studies have been carried out. The Drainage Mills in the Broads and Fens are particularly important in these areas and the Broads Authority Executive Area is identified as an area of Exceptional Waterlogged Archaeology. Harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset should be avoided in the design and location of new minerals or waste management development.
Climate and Flood Risk
3.20 As Norfolk is low-lying, coastal and has a series of inland waterways and the Broads, flood risk is of particular concern throughout the county. Land within the fens area in west Norfolk and the Broads Authority Executive Area are at greatest risk of flooding from rivers and the sea. The effects of climate change are likely to increase these risks. Norfolk's Local Planning Authorities have produced Strategic Flood Risk Assessments for their areas, to assess the risk of flooding from all sources, now and in the future, taking account of the impacts of climate change. Sand and gravel extraction and silica sand extraction are 'water compatible' land uses which are appropriate in all flood zones. Carstone extraction and the majority of waste management facilities (except landfill and the management of hazardous waste) are 'less vulnerable' land uses and may be suitable in all flood zones except flood zone 3b (the functional flood plain), however, a sequential approach to the location of minerals and waste development should be taken to steer new development to areas with the lowest probability of flooding.
3.21 Carstone is a type of sandstone that is quarried in west Norfolk. It has traditionally been used as a vernacular building material, although it is no longer used to any significant degree. Although it is classed as a 'hard rock' it is not used as a hard rock (e.g. road dressing), instead it is used primarily as fill (to raise the levels of land prior to construction) or in the formation of embankments. Therefore, it is often used in the construction of roads.
3.22 Carstone deposits are located in very limited areas of west Norfolk. In 2020 there were three carstone extraction sites in Norfolk, two were located at Middleton and one at Snettisham.
3.23 Carstone production in Norfolk was 55,907 tonnes in 2020. The 10-year rolling average of carstone sales was 75,138 tonnes in the period 2011-2020. The 3-year rolling average of carstone sales was 67,354 tonnes in the period 2018-2020. The permitted reserves for carstone extraction sites in Norfolk were 1.845 million tonnes at the end of 2018. Based on the 10-year sales average, the permitted reserves provide a carstone landbank of over 22 years, which would last until 2043.
3.24 Silica sand deposits are located in very limited areas of west Norfolk, a relatively narrow band which runs north to south just to the east of King's Lynn. The northern extent of the silica sand resource is at Heacham, and the southern extent around Hilgay. In Norfolk the silica sand resource is split into two broad categories, the Mintlyn Beds and the Leziate Beds; historically the Leziate Beds have been used principally for glass sand and the Mintlyn Beds for the production of foundry sand. Processing of sand for foundry use has stopped at Leziate and those parts of the process plant dedicated to their production have been removed. This reflects a general decline in the demand for foundry sand in England.
3.25 The deposit which is being worked at Leziate is one of two in England where silica sand of sufficient purity and grade for the manufacture of colourless flint (container) and float (window) glass is extracted. The other extraction site of silica sand of comparable quality is in Surrey.
3.26 Silica sand which is to be used for glass manufacture requires a significant amount of processing prior to being suitable for onward shipment to the glass manufacturers. This processing requires large and capital-intensive plant such as the one operated by Sibelco UK Ltd which is located at Leziate. Consistency of material is an important consideration, and this requires blending of sand from different areas of the working. The processing plant site includes a rail head to export the processed mineral for use by glass manufactures elsewhere. Norfolk is one of the most important sources of silica sand in Britain, accounting for over 15 per cent of total output and approximately 60 per cent of silica sand production used for glass manufacture sourced in Great Britain in 2014 (the most recent available data by end use).
3.27 Due to the cost and largely fixed nature of the processing plant and railhead, silica sand working has historically taken place in close proximity to the Leziate processing plant. However, this now means that the most accessible areas have either been worked or are in the process of being worked.
3.28 The 10-year rolling average of silica sand sales in Norfolk was 800,051 tonnes in the period 2011-2020. The 3-year rolling average of silica sand sales was 814,625 tonnes in the period 2018-2020. The permitted reserves for silica sand extraction sites in Norfolk were 3.232 million tonnes at the end of 2020. Based on the 10-year sales average, the permitted reserve provides a silica sand landbank of over 4 years, which would last until the end of 2024.
3.29 Sand and gravel resources are located throughout the County (with the exception of the Fens area in the far west and south-west of Norfolk). Sand and gravel are used in the construction of roads and buildings and it is a key ingredient in the production of concrete and mortar, asphalt coating for roads, as a drainage medium and in the construction of embankments and foundations. The distribution of sand and gravel sites throughout Norfolk is widespread with a relatively large number of small operators. In 2020 there were 23 active permitted sand and gravel extraction sites in Norfolk operated by 15 different companies. There are, however, particular clusters of sand and gravel workings near to King's Lynn, in the north of Breckland District and around Norwich.
3.30 Sand and gravel production in Norfolk was 1.312 million tonnes in 2020. The 10-year rolling average of sand and gravel sales was 1.37 million tonnes in the period 2011-2020. The 3-year rolling average of sand and gravel sales was 1.38 million tonnes in the period 2018-2020. The permitted reserves for sand and gravel extraction sites in Norfolk were 14.51 million tonnes at the end of 2020. Based on the 10-year sales average, the permitted reserve provides a sand and gravel landbank of over 10 years, which would last until 2031.
3.31 Secondary and recycled aggregates are also sourced within Norfolk. The annual average quantity of inert and construction/demolition waste recovered at waste management facilities over the ten years from 2010-2019 was 434,600, however, some parts of this waste stream are unsuitable for use as a recycled aggregate (such as soil or timber). The data is not comprehensive because many operations, such as on-site recovery, are not recorded.
3.32 Marine aggregate dredging is carried out by companies on behalf of the Crown Estate and the sites are licensed by the Marine Management Organisation; therefore, Norfolk County Council does not have any planning involvement in marine aggregates and they do not form part of the Minerals and Waste Local Plan. The East Inshore and East Offshore Marine Plans and the UK Marine Policy Statement, as well as the NPPF, inform and guide decisions by regulators managing the development of industry in marine and coastal areas, while conserving and enhancing the environment and therefore are relevant to Norfolk.
3.33 Aggregates from marine dredging are not currently received at any ports of wharves in Norfolk. No marine sourced aggregates were consumed in Norfolk in 2019 (the most recently available data).
3.34 Clay and chalk are also extracted in Norfolk. Clay is primarily used in the engineering of landfill sites and in flood protection schemes. Chalk is primarily used as a liming agent for farmland. In 2021 there was one active clay working at Middleton, and three active chalk workings located at Castle Acre, Caister St Edmund and Hillington. However, the resource for these minerals is considered to be abundant in Norfolk relative to the demand.
Waste management facilities
3.35 There are a number of waste management facilities within Norfolk (data from Environment Agency's Waste Data Interrogator 2019 and 2020). They include:
Twenty Household Waste Recycling Centres, provided by Norfolk County Council, which accepted over 58,000 tonnes of waste in 2019 and over 49,000 tonnes of waste in 2020.
Six commercial composting facilities which received over 111,000 tonnes of waste in 2019 and over 108,000 tonnes of waste in 2020;
There are two metal recycling facilities at Lenwade and Great Yarmouth, one metal recycling facility at King's Lynn docks and a large number of small sites accepting scrap metal or end-of life vehicles. The metal recycling facilities received over 161,000 tonnes of waste in 2019 and over 167,000 tonnes of waste in 2020;
89 operational sites for the treatment and/or transfer of waste (including municipal, commercial and industrial, hazardous, clinical, construction and demolition), which received over 2.533 million tonnes of waste in 2019 and over 2.172 million tonnes in 2020. Of these totals, over 0.861 million tonnes in 2019 and over 0.595 million tonnes in 2020 was received at Anglian Water Services Ltd sewage sludge treatment facilities at Thetford, King's Lynn and Whitlingham;
There are two non-hazardous landfill sites (Blackborough End and Feltwell) in Norfolk, but both sites were inactive in 2019 and only Blackborough End landfill site received waste in 2020 (over 75,000 tonnes). As at the end of 2020, Blackborough End landfill site has a permitted void capacity (remaining landfill space) of 3.767 million m3 in total, however, 2.34 million m3 of this voidspace is expected to be used for inert waste only, leaving 1.422 million m3 voidspace for non-hazardous waste. The remaining voidspace in Feltwell landfill site at the end of 2020 is 1.204 million m3. Therefore, the total landfill voidspace for non-hazardous waste disposal is 2.626 million m3.
In 2019 over 308,000 tonnes of inert waste was received at inert landfill sites or used in the restoration of mineral workings, which increased to over 323,000 tonnes in 2020. There is an estimated void capacity at inert landfill sites and for quarry restoration of at least 3.42 million m3 in Norfolk at the end of 2020 plus the 2.34 million m3 in Blackborough End landfill site.
There is a renewable energy plant operated by EPR at Thetford which received over 493,000 tonnes of waste in 2019 and over 396,000 tonnes of waste in 2020. The waste received at this facility is poultry litter which is burned to produced energy.
There is a waste paper reprocessing facility operated by Palm Paper Ltd at King's Lynn which received over 540,000 tonnes of waste in 2019 and 448,000 tonnes of waste in 2020 to produce newsprint.
Some variations in the waste management data between 2019 and 2020 are likely to be due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Further detail on waste management capacity, movements, arisings and forecasts is provided in a separate Waste Management Capacity Assessment report.