Thousands of new jobs in food and drink production could be created in the Melton area as a result of £75,000 of government funding being awarded this morning (Thursday).
The cash is part of a £500,000 investment by the so-called ‘Midlands Engine’ in four designated pilot manufacturing zones (MAZ) in the East Midlands, with Melton being one of those chosen.
The borough council’s bid for the money was supported and submitted by the LLEP (Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership), to undertake feasibility work to support food production and innovation in the borough.
Three locations on the edge of the town - to the east, west and south-west of Melton - together with a centrally located site, have been identified as suitable for a distinctive food and drink-focused manufacturing zone.
The council and the LLEP will work with the owners of the sites, which are allocated in the recently-adopted Local Plan for employment use, to bring forward their delivery.
A key use for the grant will be to fund a feasibility study to explore the opportunity for the council to work closely with Brooksby Melton College in developing a local Food Enterprise Centre (FEC) to develop local skills in food science and technology as well as catering.
Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, said: “The award of £75,000 grant funding is great news at a very exciting time for Melton.
“This project, along with the adoption of our Local Plan and announcement of the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road funding, highlights Melton Borough Council’s intent and commitment to create the conditions for growth and prosperity within our local economy and provide opportunity for our residents and businesses.
“If successful, the delivery of these 82 hectares of employment sites could potentially generate thousands of jobs and support innovation in the food sector.”
The council says engagement with local businesses will be a key part of the work being undertaken, to understand their needs and support requirements.
There is also potential to seek help from the Food Innovation Centre (FIC) of the University of Nottingham’s bioscience department for product and process/equipment development for the businesses involved.
Kevin Harris, chair of the LLEP said: “I am delighted that Melton has been included in the East Midlands Manufacturing Zone pilot announced today.
“Within our Local Industrial Strategy prospectus the LLEP highlighted 20 potential growth opportunities to increase productivity and support growth across Leicester and Leicestershire.
“For advanced manufacturing and engineering, one of these was to develop an East Midlands Manufacturing Zone pilot to reduce planning restrictions and stimulate investment.
“We have taken this growth opportunity forward through the Midlands Engine call for projects.
“The funding we have secured will help Melton deliver a manufacturing zone, demonstrating the importance of our Local Industrial Strategy.”
The investment by the ‘Midlands Engine’ will also see funding for a planned space park in Leicester and in manufacturing projects across Lincolnshire and Derbyshire.
Sir John Peace, chairman of the ‘Midlands Engine’, said: “We welcome the announcement of the locations for the UK’s first Manufacturing Zones along with the associated £500,000 funding.
“The Manufacturing Zones chosen build on the existing strengths of the region in the space, food and advanced manufacturing sectors.
“It is another example of how the Midlands Engine can work with Government to deliver economic growth and jobs.”
Announcing the creation of the region’s first manufacturing zones, Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire, said: “Manufacturing, innovation and trade are at the heart of the East Midlands economy, so it is the perfect place for the UK’s first Manufacturing Zones.
“This is another example of how the government is delivering for the midlands with our modern Industrial Strategy backing local businesses and building on local strengths.”