£7.5 million cash package sought for new A120 business park
- Credit: Will Durrant
A £7.5 million funding package could be used to develop the Little Canfield Business Park.
Uttlesford District Council's Investment Board will ask senior councillors to approve borrowing worth £7.5 million to develop commercial units at the park, enabling them to be rented out.
The funding package is part of a larger scheme to create a council depot and office in the southern portion of the district.
Uttlesford District Council's cabinet will debate and vote on the proposal in early September.
Councillors from the three largest parties on the council have expressed support for the project.
R4U councillor Neil Reeve, who is responsible for UDC's economy, investment and corporate srategy, said the business park will produce a "good return."
He added: "It's something that can support the local area. The park will create employment here.
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"The council's finances are looking good and there are capital gains on pretty much everything we are investing in, in addition to income to support council services."
Cllr Chris Criscione, UDC Conservative group leader, said this represented a "double whammy" in generating income for the council while supporting local businesses.
Cllr Criscione said: "I have been critical of investments in the past - in Gloucestershire or Scotland.
"But this is what we need to see - local investment."
UDC owns commercial units throughout the country, including an Amazon warehouse in Gloucestershire, a Waitrose distributions centre in Lancashire and a veterinary hospital near Edinburgh.
Cllr Criscione added: "It's a great part of our economic recovery in Uttlesford post-Covid."
UDC's Liberal Democrat group leader said the site needs some more "ambition".
Cllr Melvin Caton said: "My one reservation about the park is that it won't be a park - It is likely to be one tenant.
"I would prefer a range of businesses, but in any case, we must look at the employment benefits.
"We should also be looking at a wider criteria for who the tenant is. The chosen tenant should bring the greatest benefit to the community, not just pay the highest rent."
The site has already been purchased for the new council depot, but only 30 percent will be used for UDC business.
The £7.5 million package will be used to renovate rental units on the remaining 70 percent of the site, which will be let by the council.
The council hopes rental income will cover the site's running costs, with any spare going towards improving other UDC-owned buildings and services.
An agent on behalf of the council believed the rental units could develop £350,000 each year, a figure which has since increased to almost £500,000.
A UDC report reads: "The final tenant will be decided not on yield alone but after taking into account other factors, such as the impact on our neighbours."
Both Cllrs Reeve and Criscione said this could mean fewer vehicle movements through Little Canfield or limited environmental impact.
Without borrowing, which Cllr Reeve said would be at a low interest rate, the council would need to sell units for short-term gain.
Little Canfield Business Park and depot is set to be built near the A120 on land previously occupied by a banana factory and farmland.
The rest of the £9.45 million depot scheme - which is separately funded - is in budget.
Plans currently include a new council workshop and meeting space.
The Investment Board's report also said the current plan is for UDC to buy diesel from Tesco to power its on-site vehicles, but new Hydrogen Vegetable Oil tanks could be bought for use in the future.
A previous version of this article noted that Cllr Neil Hargreaves is responsible for coordinating investment into the park. The correct councillor is Cllr Neil Reeve.