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Cabinet poised to scrap controversial £2.25m business zone plan

PUBLISHED: 10:48 19 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 19 August 2019

The Egmere Business Zone is off the B1105 between Fakenham and Wells. Picture: Google StreetView

The Egmere Business Zone is off the B1105 between Fakenham and Wells. Picture: Google StreetView

Archant

One of the final nails could be hammered into the coffin of a controversial £2.25m business zone project this week.

Sarah Butikofer, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said Wetherspoon could still come to North Walsham. Picture: ArchantSarah Butikofer, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said Wetherspoon could still come to North Walsham. Picture: Archant

The saga around North Norfolk District Council's proposed Egmere Business Zone Project has rumbled on for several years now and significantly came to a head last year, dividing opinion in the then Tory-led council.

The scheme was at the centre of the controversy which led to a vote of no confidence in the Conservative leadership and control changing hands to the Liberal Democrats.

And this week, cabinet members could scrap the scheme once and for all, with officers recommending it be ditched.

It comes after talks with a potential first tenant fell through, scuppering a funding bid with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

Duncan Baker, north Norfolk district councillor and the Conservative group leader  Picture: Stuart AndersonDuncan Baker, north Norfolk district councillor and the Conservative group leader Picture: Stuart Anderson

In a report to cabinet, Duncan Ellis, the council's head of finance, said it was faced with a number of options, including finding alternative tenants, an alternative site or withdrawing from the project completely - recommending the latter.

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In announcing plans to scrap the project last month, Sarah Butikofer, leader of the council, described the scheme as a vanity project of the previous administration.

She said: "The location, costs involved and the lack of interest in the site by investors or business should have raised alarm bells with our predecessors - but it did not.

"Now we find that the principal prospective anchor tenant does not intend to move to the site so the viability for us as a council is now completely undermined and for that reason we have decided to withdraw from the deal."

This withdrawal will be rubber stamped by cabinet members on Friday, should they decide not to pursue a different option.

Duncan Baker, leader of the Conservative group at NNDC, however, said scrapping the scheme, which would see £170,00 spent on the project so far lost, would be a mistake.

He said: "It [Egmere] was a golden opportunity to give something back to the west of the district and create employment opportunities.

"Yes, you can say that financially there are always going to be areas where you would like to see things operate a different way, but we need to look at things for the long term.

"They [the Lib Dems] are making short term decisions on long term projects."

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