Controversial business zone scheme back on council agenda

An action plan has been drawn up for the Egmere Business Park proposal. Picture: Ian Burt

An action plan has been drawn up for the Egmere Business Park proposal. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A controversial business park proposal, which served as catalyst for the changing leadership at North Norfolk District Council, is back on the agenda.

A new report reviewing the case for the Egmere Business Zone will be discussed by councillors on Monday, February 4.

All 47 councillors have been invited to a private session to discuss the report immediately after the Cabinet meeting, which starts at 10am.

The report into the viability of the park, near Walsingham, was commissioned late last year.

The aim of the review was to allow the council to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the project.

The business zone was previously identified as a potential area for employment growth, in particular to support the offshore wind energy sector.

The Egmere Local Development Order (LDO) was adopted in August 2014 with the objective of designating land for investment by businesses in the wind energy sector with a simplified planning regime.

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The review of the business case for the development considered the appropriateness of the development proposal, having regard to the local property market dynamics, market opportunities for the site, financial factors, benefits and market risks of the development.

Sarah Butikofer, NNDC Leader, said: “The review contains important information we need to consider as a council.”

The business park has polarised opinions with many welcoming the move as a way of securing well-paid jobs in the district.

Concerns have been raised, however, about NNDC investing more than £2m in the scheme for what some believe will be limited return.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb wrote to his constituents asking whether they thought it was a “good use of taxpayers’ money”.

The scheme was a significant factor in the change of leadership at NNDC.

The previous Conservative-led cabinet with John Lee as leader had agreed to push ahead with the project, despite members voting in favour of recommending to Cabinet that a review be carried out. This led to Liberal Democrat Mrs Butikofer to table a vote of no confidence in Mr Lee’s leadership, which resulted in the council’s current cross-party cabinet.