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Sugar factory decision day

PUBLISHED: 16:27 05 February 2009 | UPDATED: 12:57 03 July 2010

VILLAGERS are today awaiting the verdict of the Broads Authority's planning committee on a contentious £35m scheme to expand the sugar factory at Cantley.

VILLAGERS are today awaiting the verdict of the Broads Authority's planning committee on a contentious £35m scheme to expand the sugar factory at Cantley.

Residents from Cantley and surrounding villages such as Beighton, which are affected by lorry traffic to the plant, are expected to pack the 10am meeting at the authority's new headquarters, Dragonfly House in Norwich.

If the scheme is given the go-ahead, it will allow British Sugar to begin processing raw cane sugar in the summer through Great Yarmouth's Outer Harbour, to extend the factory's current five-month sugar beet operation.

The plans for a new warehouse and lime production plant on the Limpenhoe side of the site and a massive upgrading of factory technology to reduce oil burning and slash CO2 emissions are being recommended for approval by Broads Authority officers, although they acknowledge it is a “controversial proposal” which has attracted “a large number of objections”.

Their report points out that neither Norfolk County Council nor the Highways Agency have raised any objections concerning extra traffic on the roads, and the fact that the plant is already “part of the Broads landscape”.

The application is being decided after extensive public consultation and a visit to the site by nine members of the committee.

Reaction to the plan - which would use Third World sugar imported through Great Yarmouth's outer harbour - has been mixed, with 105 letters of support and 103 letters of objection being lodged.

Supporters cite the employment opportunities to the rural economy and the energy-saving impact, while the objectors are concerned about increased summer lorry traffic.

While Cantley and Beighton parish councils both unanimously objected to the scheme following public meetings, other local councils such as Reedham and Langley with Hardley parish councils have signalled their approval. Norfolk County Council, Yarmouth Borough Council, Broadland District Council and the Economic Development Agency also support the proposal.

British Sugar says the plans, which could build up to 165 days of summer operation, are essential to maintain the economic future of the plant, which employs 118 people all year round with extra high season jobs.

The company has offered to address safety concerns, particularly near the school, by offering to provide £100,000 towards road safety improvements.

It has also indicated that once the factory is operating fully it is prepared to investigate the possibility of transporting the sugar cane by river, a move which would be supported by the Broads Authority.

Cally Smith, head of regeneration and development at the Broads Authority, said: “In this difficult economic climate it's encouraging to see a company wanting to invest in employment in rural communities with huge spin-offs for Yarmouth's outer harbour.”

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