‘£2.2m to create eight jobs?’- North Norfolk MP questions council’s controversial business zone scheme

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Photo: DENISE BRADLEY

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Photo: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

North Norfolk’s MP has called into question the district council’s decision to press ahead with plans to spend more than £2m on a controversial business zone targeted at the offshore energy sector.

Councillor Richard Price. Picture: NORTH NORFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL

Councillor Richard Price. Picture: NORTH NORFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

It comes after North Norfolk District Council's cabinet voted not to reconsider the scheme despite concerns from some councillors.

The Egmere Business Zone, located between Fakenham and Wells, near Walsingham, is one of many enterprise zones across the country.

Through the use of a so-called Local Development Order, companies working in the offshore energy industry, which meet certain criteria, can move into the zone without having to apply for planning permission.

It also offers companies a five-year break from business rates as well as access to superfast broadband.

Egmere Business Park. Picture: Ian Burt

Egmere Business Park. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

By speeding up the planning process, the scheme aims to secure investment in north Norfolk from the burgeoning offshore energy industry and to create high skilled jobs in the local area.

However, MP Norman Lamb said: "To spend so much money in one place for what appears to be a low return seems to me to be very questionable.

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"The cabinet is the devolved body to make decisions but surely when there is such an expression of concern as a whole it should make you stop and think.

"This appears to be creating a limited number of jobs for the investment."

Mr Lamb has sent an email to his constituents asking whether they think "spending £2 million to create eight local on-site jobs at Egmere is a good use of taxpayers' money?"

However, North Norfolk district councillor Richard Price is a supporter of the scheme and said: "This is pure election propaganda and sadly a significant distortion of the facts to cause unnecessary alarm to the voters.

"The true fact is that this project comprises of two elements; the first, for around £750,000 is to provide road and utility services into an area of land for future development which could support an unknown number of new jobs in the future.

"The second part of the project is the council developing a premises at a costs of approximately £1.5 million for lease to an identified business which has growth plans and initially proposes an additional eight jobs over and above its existing workforce, with an appropriate return, but will see approximately 30 jobs supported through the new facilities on the Egmere site."

Tidal Transit, a business providing transport for those working in the offshore energy sector, recently became the first new business to agree to move into the Egmere Business Zone.