READER LETTER: ‘Egmere is being used as an excuse to disrupt council’

Egmere Business Park. Picture: Ian Burt

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

I refer and respond to the letter published in the North Norfolk News (November 15) from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Butikofer is correct that there is great misunderstanding regarding the creation of the Egmere Business Enterprise Zone. Her letter shows how little she herself actually understands what Egmere is - this despite the fact that she is using Egmere as an excuse to disrupt the NNDC administration.

The two points that she does make correctly are that this scheme is backed by Central Government who designated it an Enterprise Zone, and is also backed by the Local Enterprise Partnership who awarded NNDC £425,000 towards it.

So Cllr Butikofer understands:

1. The scheme was in the 2015 Conservative Manifesto on which the people of North Norfolk elected this administration to deliver. The scheme was then presented to Council in 2016 when the principle was fully supported by this Council.

2. This project has two elements. The first; for around £750,000 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. This is what other local authorities are doing. King's Lynn have just announced a similar project, in the full knowledge that the 'financial' return is low, but that the economic and social benefit will be substantial. Therefore taking the lead in delivering economic and social benefit for their residents.

3. The second part of the project is the development of premises at a cost of approx. £1.5 million to lease to an identified business which has growth plans to double its workforce. Therefore, it is simply untrue to say there are NO new jobs. Further, had we delayed, we would run the serious risk of losing this first tenant and losing the LEP funding of £425,000; as well as causing vital reputational damage.

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4. Cllr Butikofer gives the impression in her letter that there has been no interest over the last two years. The truth is that the site has NOT been marketed and not been able to be marketed until now.

5. As to the 1.62% return, it is the minimum but it is there and a positive return. Further, it relates to just one plot! When the second plot is let the return increases and so on, with each additional tenant to reach 4.10% when the site is fully occupied. A possibility may then arise to further develop the site. The financial return is on top of the social and economic benefits of the Egmere scheme, which the Conservative administration values highly. It is pointless building new houses without the infrastructure to support the residents and this must include employment opportunities.

6. The Scrutiny Committee Chaired by Cllr Butikover's party had Egmere on their agenda for their meeting on 17th October. However, unfortunately, they managed to miss that item out. Had they not, they would have learned that the Crown Estate has invited offers for further areas of seabed to bring more windfarms to our coastal waters, so it is clear that this is still very much a growing business for the future.

7. Furthermore the Liberal Democrats should also know - though Cllr Butikofer omits to mention it in her letter- that NNDC officers are already talking to another TWO companies about using the Egmere site.

The decision is already showing itself to be the right one. It is time that some Councillors stopped engaging in political games and got on with what they are meant to be doing - supporting our residents and driving economic growth. Fortunately, the electorate, whom we serve, will in a matter of months, have their opportunity to vote as they see fit on this decision and the party Manifestos.

Cllr Richard Price

Deputy Leader NNDC

Portfolio Holder for Property and Asset Commercialisation

*Note: Letter submitted Tuesday, November 20, too late for publication in the North Norfolk News of November 22, but before the November 21 full council meeting at which Sarah Butikofer replaced John Lee as leader of North Norfolk District Council