In February last year Melton Council was selected as one of the first places in England, and the only place in Leicestershire, to pioneer a Food Enterprise Zone - a new Government initiative for economic growth by boosting food and farming businesses through three main areas of activity - simplified planning, business support and training opportunities.
The project’s objectives are to assist the economic growth of food and farming by strengthening local supply chains - linking farmers, manufacturers, businesses and customers in a better and more integrated way - and supporting farms and businesses to diversify, expand and add value to their products - contributing to the creation of jobs, benefiting the food economy and boosting local tourism.
Melton Council has already secured strong partnerships in support of the initiative from key partners including Brooksby Melton College, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, Loughborough University and others.
The next stages in the Food Enterprise Zone project include further developing online facilities to showcase Melton’s food and drink offer, including linking an existing Melton Town Centre app to a new digital food finder which local people and visitors can use to find the best places to buy, eat, drink, visit and stay.
A key element of the Food Enterprise Zone initiative is the establishment of a Local Development Order.
This order, which would cover the whole of the Melton borough, would simplify the planning process by granting automatic planning permission for certain types of development in specific circumstances, reducing bureaucracy and cost and improving certainty for landowners, developers and communities.
The intention of the order, within the context of the Food Enterprise Zone project, is to focus on development needs that may arise such as the erection and extension of farm buildings/shops, extensions to food production facilities and change of use of buildings.
The order would only permit development of an appropriate scale, also ensuring the needs of nearby residents are recognised and their amenity is protected. Developments undertaken under the terms of the proposed order would also be subject to other standard conditions.
A farmer’s focus group, created with the help of the NFU and including several Melton farmers, has advised the council on the development of the order as has a producer/retailer focus group.
Melton Council’s rural, economic and environmental affair committee, which meets later today, is set to agree to pursue the development of the order.
If agreed, a draft Local Development Order will go out for consultation to affected parties and the wider public. The results of the consultation would be reported back to the council before it decided whether the order should go ahead in its draft form or with necessary changes before it is adopted.
l For more information about the Melton Food Enterprise Zone and Local Development Order visit www.meltonfoodenterprisezone.com