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Consultation launched on plans for the UK's first ever commercial seaweed farm

PUBLISHED: 12:52 14 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:02 14 August 2019

Sustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Colin Inglis

Sustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Colin Inglis

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Plans to establish the UK's first commercial seaweed farm off the Norfolk coast could take a step forward after an application for a marine license was submitted.

Sustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Ian BurtSustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Ian Burt

The plans for the business, to operate off the coast of Wells, were first revealed in January, when Sustainable Seaweed Ltd discussed its ideas with Wells Town Council.

The company expressed a desire to work with local fishermen as it aims to farm 100,000 tonnes of seaweed and create 100 jobs by its fifth year of operation.

Now Sustainable Seaweed has applied to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to set up the facility, which would be 6km off the coast in an area the size of around three football pitches.

Nicky King, chairman of Wells and District Inshore Fishermen's Association, is worried about the impact a seaweed farm could have on the industry. Picture: ArchantNicky King, chairman of Wells and District Inshore Fishermen's Association, is worried about the impact a seaweed farm could have on the industry. Picture: Archant

A public consultation has also opened, allowing residents, businesses and stakeholders to voice their opinions until August 29.

In a joint statement the company's co-directors, Sahil Shah and Jeff Eneberi, said: "We are able to report that our application is now at the consultation phase.

"We will work closely with the MMO and relevant parties to bring a good news story to Norfolk and the local economy."

What is seaweed? Picture: ArchantWhat is seaweed? Picture: Archant

Seaweed farming has been on the rise globally and, in 2014, a conference entitled 'Growing a Seaweed Economy in East Anglia' brought together local bosses and industry experts to discuss its potential.

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The algae's versatility means it is often found in food, toiletries and animal feed, as well as in fertiliser to help grow crops.

Sustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Getty ImagesSustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Getty Images

Environmental benefits are also considerable, with seaweed's absorption of carbon dioxide seen as having an integral role in tackling climate change.

But Nicky King, chairman of Wells Fishermen's Association, believes a seaweed farm could be bad news for the fishing industry.

"It's another area fishermen can't use," said Mr King. "You could argue it's not very big but, with a wind farm as well, all these things are nibbling away at where we can fish.

Wells mayor Mike Gates believes the seaweed farm could be beneficial for the town. Picture: SubmittedWells mayor Mike Gates believes the seaweed farm could be beneficial for the town. Picture: Submitted

"Creating jobs is obviously a good thing, but it will make things convoluted for all boat-users and we're going to express our concerns."

Wells mayor Mike Gates is, however, hopeful a resolution can be found.

"The impact on fishing is an issue and there needs to be consultation on how it can be resolved," said Mr Gates. "The North Sea is a huge area, so I'm sure things will work out.

Sustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Colin InglisSustainable Seaweed has applied to the MMO to set up a seawed farm off the coast of Wells. Picture: Colin Inglis

"Overall this project could be good for Wells. Not only would it create employment, but it's good from an environmental perspective as well."

Visit the MMO website to view the full proposal.

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