A new centre of excellence for food processing – adding value for farmers – is taking shape on a 40ha site near Norwich.
Norfolk’s Food Enterprise Park (FEP) at Easton started as a vision to create a new innovative site for food processing and production. Doing so will boost the value of local agriculture, while bringing employment and investment to the region.
The enterprise park was inspired by a desire to increase the value of crops grown in Norfolk by processing them locally – rather than losing the business to other areas. Work has been quietly going on at the site for two years.
Those turning the vision into reality include landowners Ian and James Alston, FEP director Clarke Willis and Brown & Co head of commercial Nick Dunn. One of the first businesses to call the site home – Condimentum –is already up and running.
Condimentum uses mint and mustard grown by local farmers. It creates mustard flour and fresh mint in solution for sauces – boasting one of the only unique types of mustard mills to exist outside North America.
Construction is also under way for a “vertical farm” across 2ha of the site. The system grows fresh produce year round in climate controlled, vertically-stacked production layers. It will use renewable solar power for its light and power source.
Meanwhile building work is going on at the site, which is within the Greater Norwich Food Enterprise Zone, to build the Broadland Food Innovation Centre – with 13 food-grade units to lease to food producers.
A central hub will provide test kitchens with business and technical support. Brown & Co are the letting agents. These will form part of a 35,000ft² building on 1.25ha, owned and developed by Broadland District Council.
“Work has been going on since 2019 to bring water, power, access and a fast Broadband connection to the site so businesses can operate,” says Mr Willis.
All such works are now in place for Phase One with the site’s initial road entrance complete and a spine road currently being finished. Connection to the upgraded A47 planned for 2024 and a new entrance is in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, internal services in place include surface water capture using a filtration lagoon, foul drainage, mains water, broadband and electricity supply. Solar power is available and a large additional incoming power supply to be added early next year.
James Alston says: “Our vision for the site is paying off and we are really encouraged that so many food, drink and agri-tech businesses are seeing the benefit of clustering together and co-locating at the FEP.”
Serviced plots up to 6ha in size are available to lease or buy. An added benefit is the close proximity to the Norwich Research Park. There are 19ha which benefit from a Local Development Order which means planning consent is fast-tracked so long as qualifying criteria are met.
Mr Dunn advises around 5ha have already been sold on this basis to different food-related firms.
“With these most recent completions and some really positive discussions ongoing with other potential occupiers, momentum at the FEP is really building,” he says.
“The fast-track planning is a real plus, enabling qualifying occupiers an almost immediate start on site. This reduces uncertainty and considerably speeds up the development process.”