New Anglia LEP Food Enterprise Zone bid focuses on three key ‘clusters’

The Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead.

The Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead.

Three key local areas for agriculture, research and food production in Suffolk and Norfolk have been identified in a New Anglia Local Enterprise Partership (LEP) bid for Food Enterprise Zone status.

East Anglia was not included among the first 11 Food Enterprise Zones (FEZs) which were announced last month, but a second round of bidding was announced shortly afterwards, with a deadline for applications of Monday this week.

New Anglia LEP vowed to compile a “compelling” proposal for round two and confirmed yesterday that it had met the deadline for submissions.

FEZ status offers streamlined planning rules for food businesses, making it easier for food and farming businesses to expand.As well as attracting investment, the zones also aim to encourage closer ties between food and farming businesses to boost the UK food and farming sector.

New Anglia LEP says in its submission: “Norfolk and Suffolk is home to world-leading food and agricultural research institutions and training facilities, including the Norwich Research Park and Easton and Otley College.

“We believe the scale and geography of our food, drink and agriculture sector warrants three Food Enterprise Zones; the three are complementary in nature and also provide a golden opportunity for collaboration.”

The three zones proposed in the submission to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), are:

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n Orwell Food Cluster: close to the banks of the River Orwell and anchored around three existing operators, Suffolk Food Hall, the East of England Co-operative and Jimmy’s Farm;

n Gipping Valley Food Cluster: agricultural land off the A14 at Stowmarket linking existing food producers and supply chain businesses; and

n Greater Norwich Food Cluster: based on the food and agricultural cluster around the Easton area and the A47, linking business, research, and education.

The bid has been submitted in partnership with Babergh, Mid Suffolk and South Norfolk councils.

Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia LEP, said: “Food, drink and agriculture is one of our largest sectors, contributing millions to our local economy and thousands of jobs. Being awarded one or more Food Enterprise Zones will help build on our success and push forward with further work on establishing world-leading agricultural centres and promoting our unique food and drink brands which are now intrinsic to our cultural heritage.

“We believe these are all strong cases demonstrating the potential for future development, better connectivity along the supply chain and the opportunity to link skills and training with scientific research.”

A decision from Defra is expected by the end of March.