Business park dream is dashed after council pulls plug

The Egmere Business Zone is off the B1105 between Fakenham and Wells. Picture: Google StreetView

The Egmere Business Zone is off the B1105 between Fakenham and Wells. Picture: Google StreetView - Credit: Archant

The plug has been pulled on a plan for a new business park in north Norfolk, with the local council branding it a “vanity project”.

The £2 million Egmere Business Zone, which was being established between Fakenham and Wells as a hub for the offshore renewable energy sector, has lost the support of North Norfolk District Council.

Council leader Sarah Butikofer said Egmere was the "second vanity project" pursued by the previous Conservative administration, along with a tennis and sports hub in Cromer.

"The location, costs involved and the lack of interest in the site by investors or business should have raised alarm bells with our predecessors. But it did not.

"Now we find that the principal prospective anchor tenant does not intend to move to the site so the viability for us as a council is now completely undermined and for that reason we have decided to withdraw from the deal."

Tom FitzPatrick, Conservative councillor for Walsingham ward, which covers the Egmere site, said the announcement at Wednesday's full council meeting to withdraw from the deal had taken him by surprise.

"That was the first I had heard of it," he said.

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

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The previous Conservative-led cabinet with John Lee as leader last year 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 tabling a vote of no confidence in Mr Lee's leadership, which resulted in the Tory's loss of control and a cross-party cabinet, which sat until the Lib Dems took over completely at the May local elections.

Mrs Butkiofer said: "It is no secret that we have been concerned about the viability of this proposal almost since its inception, and the underhanded way that this project was presented to the full council, and managed last year resulted in the previous administration losing control of the council and north Norfolk going into no overall control."

Mrs Butikofer said the council would look at more "sustainable and viable" sites to create employment and economic opportunities in the district.