Review into controversial Egmere Business Park proposals due to be completed next month

John Lee, former leader of North Norfolk District Council. Picture: Denise Bradley

John Lee, former leader of North Norfolk District Council. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

An independent review into the viability of the controversial business park proposal, which served as catalyst for the changing leadership at North Norfolk District Council, has been commissioned.

Nigel Dixon, councillor on North Norfolk District Council. Picture: NNDC

Nigel Dixon, councillor on North Norfolk District Council. Picture: NNDC - Credit: Archant

At the first full meeting of NNDC since the vote of no confidence last month, it was revealed an independent review into the Egmere Business Park, based between Fakenham and Wells, has now been commissioned.

However, Nigel Dixon, portfolio holder for economic development, business and tourism, would not publicly reveal how much the review was costing.

Mr Dixon said the results of the review were expected back next month, after which the council can make an informed decision on whether to push ahead with the scheme.

However, when asked by fellow Conservative councillor John Lee for the cost, Mr Dixon responded by agreeing to provide a written response to his former leader's question.

Egmere Business Park. Picture: Ian Burt

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

Mr Lee also asked whether the landowner and one signed-on tenant would be prepared to wait for the results of the review, or if they would be pull out of the scheme completely.

However, Mr Dixon's response was the same, promising that a written response to be included in the minutes of the meeting.

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The Egmere scheme was a significant factor in the change of leadership at North Norfolk District Council, acting as a catalyst for Sarah Butikofer's motion of no confidence at November's meeting.

At the October full council meeting, members voted in favour of recommending to cabinet that the review be carried out.

However, at the resultant cabinet meeting, the then Conservative cabinet members agreed to ignore these recommendations and push ahead with the project - which was described at the time as 'the death of democracy'.

This led to Liberal Democrat and now council leader Mrs Butikofer to table a vote of no confidence in Mr Lee's leadership, which resulted in the council's current cross-party cabinet.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee also asked Mrs Butikofer whether she agreed that it should be the electorate that determines who runs the council.

Mrs Butikofer said: 'I absolutely agree with this and they will get the opportunity to do so in May.'

Background to Egmere Business Park project

The Egmere Business Park is being established by North Norfolk District Council at a site near Walsingham, between Fakenham and Wells.

Through the use of a so-called Local Development Order renewable energy companies are allowed to set up offices and warehouses at the site, without planning permission. Companies receive a five-year break from business rates as well as access to superfast broadband. The move is intended to help ensure north Norfolk receives significant investment from the burgeoning offshore energy industry.

The Egmere 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 has written 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?'

Those supporting the scheme dispute this and claim significantly more jobs would be created.