Companies may be allowed set up premises at proposed offshore energy business park near Wells without planning permission

Plans to allow companies to set up premises at a proposed offshore energy industry business park between Fakenham and Wells without applying for planning permission will be discussed by councillors on Monday.

North Norfolk District Council is looking to establish its first Local Development Order (LDO).

The move, which will be viewed by some as controversial, is aimed at bringing economic growth and well-paid jobs to the district by speeding up the planning process.

The LDO would grant planning permission, subject to conditions, for specific developments described within it.

This would mean it would not be necessary for developers to submit planning applications for their proposals.

The LDO would cover a site of about 30 hectares (75 acres) at Egmere, four miles south of Wells, off the B1105 road to Fakenham.

It would specifically allow the construction of offices and warehouses. Other developments might be allowed but would have to go through the usual planning process.

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North Norfolk council wants to encourage businesses that could support Scira, the company behind the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm, which is already building an operations base at the Egmere site, and two other green energy developments off the coast.

These are the Dudgeon scheme and the Race Bank scheme, which have been granted licensing approval.

Council corporate director Steve Blatch estimated there could be some 300 people working at the site within five years.

He added: 'These major offshore wind farm developments are happening off the North Norfolk coast and we are looking to position ourselves as a district to be able to ensure that people living here can benefit from that.

'We see the LDO as a really positive move and a way of announcing that North Norfolk is open for business.

'If businesses that work in the offshore wind farm industry are based locally and located together there is more chance they will work together and more incentive for local people to get the training and skills they need to work in this industry.'

He added: 'It has been established that Wells provides the most cost effective location to serve the offshore wind farms. This site at Egmere was chosen because of its close proximity and easy access to Wells. It has also been chosen because it is already against a backdrop of industrial development and it falls outside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.'

On Monday, NNDC's cabinet will be asked to authorise council officers to carry out a formal public consultation on the proposed LDO.

It is hoped the consultation will be carried out in January and February when town and parish councils, the business community and the general public will be asked to submit their views.

Tom FitzPatrick, NNDC portfolio holder for business enterprise and economic development and district councillor for the Walsingham ward, said: 'This will not be a free-for-all with developers coming in and doing whatever they want. The council will set out development guidelines in the LDO.

'We understand that local people will have some concerns and the council will be very keen to hear their views during the consultation process.'