Rail hub pinpointed as key county development

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THE CONTROVERSIAL rail freight hub has been earmarked as one of five key projects to boost Lincolnshire’s economy.

The Greater Lincolnshire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has given its endorsement to the “Spalding International Food Park”, mooted for Deeping St Nicholas, in a bid for cash from the Government to help bring it to fruition.

The project has been opposed by residents who fear it will tear up a huge chunk of flat Fenland landscape and question whether it is needed when food manufacturing firms use lorries that are tailored to their needs.

The Government bid, led by transport experts Intermodality as part of a public/private partnership involving South Holland district and Lincolnshire county councils, is to help with the initial infrastructure including road and rail access.

It would also fund small business units and a “university satellite research facility” – making it an industrial park, with a vision for a hub for food production, distribution and research, and not just a freight drop off point.

South Holland council leader Gary Porter said he is not aware of any interest from private firms in the project yet – which would cost £250million – and said that the endorsement of the LEP would mean little unless that money comes forward.

Coun Porter said: “I am not aware of anybody in the private sector who has had a look at it but it’s one of those things that if it catches the spirit and somebody is prepared to pump prime it with Government or European money there are prospects.

“There is no interest from us if it is just going to be a dropping off point, it would have to have places where people produce things etc.

“Whatever it is though it needs to be complementary to what is here already. If there’s some cutting edge food technology stuff then it would need to complement what is done at the (University of Lincoln) Holbeach campus.”

LEP documents suggest the food park will directly create 2,400 jobs and safeguard 2,000 others. It adds that the indirect benefit would be 3,000 extra jobs and 2,400 more safeguarded.

LEP chairman Ursula Lidbetter said: “We will endorse bids which we feel fit with our priorities to funding streams like the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.

“Our endorsement is one way of showing there’s backing for a project and an identified need.”