‘Thousands of DEFRA officials could be housed at council and Pera offices’
Thousands of DEFRA officials could be housed in offices at Pera Business Park and Melton Borough Council’s Burton Street HQ if the government backs a campaign to relocate the key department from London to Melton Mowbray.
That was a pledge made by Melton MP, Alicia Kearns last night (Monday) when she spoke at a House of Commons debate on the proposals.
She was speaking via video link, after being advised to self-isolate through a notification via the NHS Covid test and trace mobile app.
In an impassioned speech, Mrs Kearns argued that Melton’s heritage for agriculture, food and drink made it the ideal place for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to be based.
She told the House: “We have office space ready to be occupied.
“Both Melton Borough Council and Pera Business Park could house between 500 and 2,500 civil servants almost immediately.
“Pera has 129,000 square feet already ready, and it would design the office space around the needs of the civil service.
“Both those sites are in the centre of our town. They overlook the livestock market, town market and train station.”
Mrs Kearns also stated: “I argue that DEFRA needs Melton Mowbray, too, because we need to make rural policy in our agricultural heartlands,
“Surely we want DEFRA officials to work from offices where they can see from their window a thriving breeding-sheep auction, as they reflect on sheep welfare, biodiversity or environmental management; where they can pick up lunch from the farmers’ market or town food stalls and meet workers from food factories in local cafes and shops; and where green fields abound.”
Mrs Kearns finished by inviting the Speaker of the House, Lindsay Hoyle MP, to visit Melton Mowbray to see for himself why the town is an ideal place to house the department and he replied that he was looking forward to it.
And DEFRA Minister, Rebecca Pow MP, confirmed during the debate that the government has instructed civil servants to consider Melton as a potential new location.
She praised Melton’s MP for making ‘such an impressive case’ for Melton and told the House: “It will be considered with all other options, and will be subject to the usual disciplines, such as securing value for money, and all the criteria that will have to fit the DEFRA operating model.”
Over the past few weeks Mrs Kearns has met with the Secretary of State for DEFRA, George Eustice, Chancellor of the Duchy, Michael Gove, and Lord Agnew at the Cabinet Office to make the case for why no other rural location can rival Melton’s offer.