Business park proposal should be scrapped, North Norfolk District Council report says
Controversial proposals to develop a new enterprise complex near Fakenham are no longer financially viable, officials say.
A review into the plan for a business park at Egmere, near Walsingham, was ordered last autumn, after the issue led to the fall of North Norfolk District Council’s previous Conservative administration.
Now, the Liberal Democrat-run authority is being urged to scrap the project altogether and use almost £1.8 million it was set to spend on it for other schemes.
A report, set to be debated by the council’s ruling cabinet later this week, said there were currently no parties interested in occupying the site.
It went on: “It is no longer considered viable to continue with the project.
“Given the timescales and levels of uncertainty around so many different issues, it is considered that the project now contains too many risks and the benefits originally anticipated for the site are highly unlikely to be realised.”
The idea of developing land north of Edgar Road, which is owned by the Walsingham Estate, was first mooted almost five years ago but has stalled in recent times despite the area having Enterprise Zone status. That status is due to expire in 2021.
A motion of no confidence was passed in the council’s then Conservative leader, John Lee, last November, after a majority of his cabinet defied a full council vote calling for a review of the scheme.
The latest report follows the completion of that review and reveals there are no lease agreements in place with either the landowner or the company that had been expected to move in.
It also warned that signing contracts for building work now would expose the council to “unacceptable” levels of risk and that cancelling the scheme now was the “most appropriate” course of action for the authority to take at this stage.
The project had a capital budget of around £2.25 million, of which £450,000 was set to be taken from the county’s business rates pool.
The report said around £170,000 had been spent so far, of which half had come from the business rates stream.
Officials admit there is a possibility the rates money could have to be returned.
But they added: “The council has acted in good faith in trying to progress the scheme and any discussions with would be held on this basis.
“There should be a recognition that it will not always be possible to deliver schemes and that it is sometimes better to stop a scheme rather than to try and continue with it.”
The cabinet meeting will take place at the council’s offices in Cromer this Friday, August 23, from 10am.