cattle at a South Cheshire agriculture show. Area to become new Food Enterprise Zone

South Cheshire farmers, food growers and suppliers could benefit from a successful bid to secure Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) status, aimed at boosting the rural economy.

Reaseheath College in Nantwich has been chosen to pilot a scheme along with ten similar pathfinder projects in the UK.

Cheshire East is one of 11 potential FEZs announced by Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Agricultural businesses and communities will be able to take advantage of relaxed planning regulations to encourage new enterprises and business development in the food growing, food supply and farming industry.

Reaseheath estate’s 272 acres are at the heart of the Cheshire dairy farming industry and it is hoped the pilot scheme is successful so similar FEZs will be established in other parts of the borough.

The plan is to create an innovative integrated FEZ so businesses can access support, skills, specialist technical resources and facilities.

Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones said: “Food Enterprise Zones will help to unlock the potential of our local producers, food and agricultural businesses.

“It will encourage enterprise and job creation across the board, generating opportunity and innovation.

“Reaseheath College is a beacon of excellence in the agri-economy of the UK and is a glowing example of the breadth and depth of skills and innovation in and around the towns of Crewe and Nantwich.”

The Reaseheath enterprise zone will encompass five sites.

Schemes will include a new knowledge and development facility to demonstrate the use of drones and remote imaging to increase efficiency in crop production.

Meredydd David, principal at Reaseheath College, said: “This will help the college to continue to support the agricultural, food manufacturing and rural businesses within the sub-region of the Local Enterprise Partnership and the surrounding counties.

“Defra’s selection of this project as a ‘pathfinder’ is recognition of the importance of the agriculture and food industry to the regional and national economy and the role that both Reaseheath College and Cheshire East Council play in supporting this hugely valuable industry.”

Cheshire East Council’s successful bid was spearheaded by Caroline Simpson, the authority’s executive director of economic growth and prosperity.

The UK’s food industry is worth more than £100 billion a year to the UK economy and FEZs will ensure farmers and agricultural businesses in Cheshire East can grow more top quality food and develop innovative businesses.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “Food and farming is at the heart of our long-term economic plan and vital to securing Britain’s economic future.”

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