Application for Easton Food Enterprise Zone has major implications

Residents at Marlingford Village Hall gathered to oppose proposals for the Easton Food Enterprise Zo

Residents at Marlingford Village Hall gathered to oppose proposals for the Easton Food Enterprise Zone. Picture: Luke Powell - Credit: Archant

We face a consultation on a planning application with significant implications. The application is for a Food Hub to the west of Easton on a 19 hectare rural site.

The application comes as a Local Development Order, which is designed to seek economic growth through a fast-track process with minimal planning constraints.

Users could include food producers, processors, retailers and/or manufacturers.

Other uses are for the storage and distribution of agricultural crops and products; agricultural equipment, machinery and supplies; and livestock.

This would generate very high movements of HGV traffic at the Easton roundabout.

The Food Hub was ill-conceived from the start, with a jumble of commercial activities all placed on one site.

It becomes more so with Brexit, and the need to harness the local strengths in food science and farming know-how to deliver changes in agriculture policies and farming support.

This entails putting to one side the mindset of growth and intensification in farming and returning to the fundamentals of the management of soil and water.

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The reports to the County Council Environment, Development Committee provide the answer to the longer term aims of this application, if approved. It would become a key part in the Greater Norwich Local Plan being progressed over the next two years.

It would be joined by the case for a Norwich Western Link Road, a name change from a Wensum Valley Link, the 'missing link' of the NDR being joined to the A47 west.

The importance of the Food Hub is that it would be used as a justification for the Link Road.

So we have step-by-step stealth process, low profile until the last.

We hope even the supporters of the Link Road have some qualms about tactics which will not allow for an open and transparent public debate.

Ian Shepherd on behalf of CPRE Norfolk: Cardinal House, St Benedict's Street, Norwich