Funding boost provides food for thought
Date Added: 26/03/2015
Central Bedfordshire Council has secured £50,000 of government funding which will help food, drink and farming businesses to set up and expand in the Biggleswade and Ivel Valley area.
Agri-food is one of the key sectors in Central Bedfordshire and the money will be used to develop a Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) which enables faster growth for businesses in the sector.
It will make it easier for existing businesses to expand and new ones to set up, attracting investment and boosting the rural economy. They will also forge closer links through the entire food chain, joining up farmers, manufacturers, retailers and researchers, helping businesses to realise the full value of our food and drink.
The FEZ, working with Cranfield University, will support the creation of 2,000 jobs and up to 30 new businesses by 2020 in a new food and drink cluster.
It will be underpinned by a Local Development Order focused on food and farming. This will be set up by the council to ensure that planning processes are easier for agri-food businesses and their related supply chains. The FEZ will be subject to public consultation.
Central Bedfordshire’s successful bid was one of six new FEZs across England revealed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today (25 March) and the council will receive the funding by the end of next month.
Jason Longhurst, Director of Regeneration and Business at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “We are improving the support we give to our key sectors, one of which is the agri-food sector.
“The Ivel Valley area is the ideal area to secure funding for a Food Enterprise Zone due to the developing cluster of agri-food businesses there.
“Jordans & Ryvita is a key anchor company on the Stratton Business Park, plus there are the land development opportunities offered through the coming three phases of the business park expansion, 65 farms in the area including Blunham’s chillies and a successful Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) that has received £1.6million of LEADER funding.
“Cranfield University’s own experimental farm is also close by in Silsoe, and Cranfield are eager to be involved in establishing a centre of excellence for Agrifood in the area.”
Among the advantages for businesses in a Food Enterprise Zone are greater collaboration between food and farming businesses, better links to research and education institutions helping to provide innovation in the sector, improved services and support from environmental health and planning teams, increased workforce specialism and supply chain efficiencies and the fact that attracting investment is easier.
Despite the successful bid, the council is keen to stress that this will have no impact on businesses outside of the food, drink and farming sector wishing to set up or expand in the area.