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Hopes to resurrect troubled Thetford Enterprise Park as council look to kickstart £6m infrastructure scheme

PUBLISHED: 09:57 04 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:57 04 January 2016

The land in between Brunel Way and the A11 in Theteford which is earmarked for development into Thetford Enterprise Park.

The land in between Brunel Way and the A11 in Theteford which is earmarked for development into Thetford Enterprise Park.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016

An employment site which has been through a 30-year ‘on/off’ saga could be set for a new lease of life as a council considers allocating £489,000 to reignite its development.

Key questions on the TEP

The EDP put four key questions to Breckland Council on the TEP’s future:

1. The recommendation is for a multi-agency package to pay for the £6m infrastructure investment in the TEP. Who does the council envision the multi-agency partners to be?

Ideally a combination of both public and private, drawing in investment from landowners, district council, county council, and national allocations via the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

2. Even with the Moving Thetford Forward money and Business Rates Pool Grant, there’s still a shortfall of more than £5m to fund the infrastrucutre – where will this come from?

Securing the full funding has to start somewhere and the paper sets out the first contribution. No single agency has the £6m required, so any solution will be one that involves collaboration and a mix of funding sources – this is known as ‘blended finance’.

3. How will Breckland ensure the types of jobs created on the site are suitable? i.e. quality, skilled jobs.

Breckland’s Economic Development team will work alongside landowners to agree a strategy for the site, which will clearly set out of the type of businesses we will be seeking to attract. Marketing and promotion of the site will be a priority, as will securing a flagship anchor tenant.

4. When is the earliest the TEP could be up and running?

This is a complex multi-agency project – but any public sector investment is driven by clear delivery targets. We currently expect that the infrastructure required to open up the site will be delivered by around the end of 2018.

The Thetford Enterprise Park (TEP) was first mooted 30 years ago and has since fallen through on at least two occasions.

Plans for the 44-acre site, located on land between Mundford Road and the A11 in Thetford, promise the creation of up to 2,500 jobs and an infrastructure investment of at least £6m.

Breckland Council’s Cabinet is now set to discuss kickstarting the project again by dedicating the last £489,000 of money from the Moving Thetford Forward (MTF) programme to get much-needed infrastructure installed - with a lack of electricity supply the primary concern.

It meets on Tuesday, with councillors and local business groups urging it to back officers’ recommendations to fund the project once and for all.

A report to members recommends that the council use £450,000 from the recently secured Norfolk Business Rates Pool Grant, and create a “multi-agency package” to cover the remaining shortfall.

If the recommendation is approved, the council would have the green light to negotiate with partner agencies to source the funding and deliver the TEP.

Mike Brown, from Thetford Business Forum, has been involved in the TEP project since it was first given the go ahead in 2008.

He said it was vital to the area’s growth, but only if it was designated as employment land for industries including engineering and manufacturing.

“It is long overdue and should have been completed at the time as it would have transformed Thetford.

“But we have to make sure it’s all employment land, that’s the key thing, otherwise it’s a waste.

“With higher rates in Norwich and Cambridge, there could be an opportunity here,” he said.

Terry Jermy, Labour councillor at Breckland, said he would back the TEP, despite what he called its “chequered past”.

“I will support it because it’s probably the single biggest opportunity to create jobs on that scale in Thetford,” he said.

He added: “I didn’t support Morrisons going in there as it was retail and we need to get manufacturing and engineering jobs in that location.”

The meeting will also discuss how a number of groups in Thetford which applied for the last of the MTF money will be able to source alternative funding.

What do you think about the plans? Email andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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