Suffolk Food Hall, Jimmy’s Farm and East of England Co-op unite to create one of two new Suffolk food hubs

Jimmy Doherty. Photo Nick Ilott

Jimmy Doherty. Photo Nick Ilott - Credit: Archant

East Anglia’s food and farming sector has received a boost with the Government’s approval of three Food Enterprise Zones in the region.

Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, speaking at the Nationa

Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, speaking at the National Farmers' Union conference last month. - Credit: PA

Two clusters of expertise in Suffolk and another in Norfolk are now set to benefit from the creation of “hubs” designed promote collaboration, and from streamlined planning rules to encourage business growth and investment.

The three applications were submitted by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) after Ministers announced a second round of bidding, with the region having missed out first time around.

New Anglia chairman Mark Pendlington described the Government’s approval of all three bids as “another excellent vote of confidence in the economic potential of Norfolk and Suffolk and our world-leading food drink and agricultural sector”.

He added: “These zones will showcase our expertise, give businesses greater freedom to grow, forge stronger links between farmers, retailers and researchers and encourage entrepreneurs to come forward with new ideas and skills – a tremendous boost to one of our most important and valuable sectors.”

The Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead.

The Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead.

The three Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) hubs in Suffolk and Norfolk approved by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are:

• Orwell Food Cluster, on the banks of the River Orwell near Ipswich and anchored around three existing operators, the Suffolk Food Hall, Jimmy’s Farm and the head office of the East of England Co-op;

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• Gipping Valley Food Cluster, based on agricultural land off the A14 at Stowmarket and linking existing food producers and supply chain businesses; and

• Greater Norwich Food Cluster, including the Royal Norfolk Showground and the Norfolk campus of Easton & Otley College and focusing on food production, food research and education.

Louise Rawsthorne, Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils’ head of service for investment and development, said: “We are delighted to have been successful in securing two Food Enterprise Zones for Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

“Both districts are located in the heart of the food and agricultural offer for Suffolk and are ideal locations for sustainable economic growth and this is a key priority for both councils.

“We hope that by securing these zones from Government that we can help raise the profile of small, specialist and artisan producers as well as supporting local businesses and helping them to thrive and grow.

“Both councils see these zones as a pathway to attracting new businesses and jobs to our districts and, in turn, boosting a thriving tourism sector and ensuring vibrant market towns.”

In all, six FEZ applications have been approved as a result of the second round of bidding, bringing the total across the country to 17. The Government will award grants of £50,000 to each local council to establish the zones.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “Food and farming is at the heart of our long-term economic plan and vital to securing Britain’s economic future.

“This latest round of successful Food Enterprise Zones will help unlock the potential of local food and farming businesses by forging closer links between farmers, manufacturers, retailers and researchers.

“Consumers both here and abroad want to buy great British food and drink. These zones will ensure our entrepreneurs can put great ideas into practice, meet that growing demand and expand this fantastic industry.”