Giant tomato greenhouses will signal that our region is ripe for investment
PUBLISHED: 16:35 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 04 October 2019
Two massive new tomato greenhouses will "send out a message" that Norfolk and Suffolk are ripe for more agri-food investment and job creation, said business leaders.
Plans were revealed this week for two vast greenhouses, each covering an area larger than the O2 Arena, to be built outside Norwich and Bury St Edmunds - capable of producing 12pc of the nation's tomatoes.
They are expected to create 360 permanent new jobs, plus another 120 seasonal posts during the peak season.
The Colman family's Crown Point Estate, which owns the Norfolk site at Kirby Bedon, said the developers had agreed to give priority to applicants living within a five-mile radius of the site, in order to ensure the project helped with local job creation.
Chris Starkie, chief executive at the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said the employment potential was a shot in the arm for the regional economy -- and that the £120m project would signal East Anglia's readiness to support similar agri-food projects.
"The announcement of 360 permanent new jobs in the local area and seasonal work for another 120 people is very welcome news," he said.
"Norfolk and Suffolk is at the leading edge of innovation in agri-tech and clean growth and these pioneering greenhouses are a win-win because as well as providing employment, they will reduce our carbon footprint and make us more self-sufficient.
READ MORE: Huge 'world-first' tomato greenhouse outside Norwich set to create hundreds of jobs
"The potential for our agri-food sector is vast. We lead the UK in agriculture and food, employing 80,000 people, and investment in research and development here has grown by 50pc since 2007. Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited - our newly-launched brand - positions us as the clean growth region, and this development will send out a message to other agri-food companies that this is the place to invest."
The two 7m-high structures, growing tomatoes hydroponically from nutrient-rich water solutions, will be warmed using waste heat from Anglian Water treatment facilities - a "world-first" model aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture.
The construction phase of the project is due to begin immediately with completion expected in autumn 2020.
The project was approved by South Norfolk District Council on November 2 last year, determined under delegated powers by planning officers who said the scheme met all requirements for issues including highway safety, traffic, drainage and biodiversity, while "limited harm" to the landscape character and setting was "considered to be outweighed by the overall benefits of the scheme".