Plans to appoint a commercial operator to run a regional food and drink innovation centre on the outskirts of Weston-super-Mare have been agreed by North Somerset Council’s Executive.
Construction of FoodWorksSW in the heart of the Junction 21 Enterprise Area is due to start by the end of the year with an opening scheduled for early 2019.
At its meeting last week, the Executive approved a commissioning plan to secure a suitably experienced operator for the centre through a tender process.
It is planned to have the operator in place on a 15-year contract by March next year. This will give the operator the opportunity to sign up occupiers and take bookings for the centre in readiness for when it opens.
FoodWorksSW will provide a range of facilities and technical support for food and drink manufacturers across the region, helping new businesses to get started and established producers to innovate and grow. Situated within the DEFRA designated Food Enterprise Zone, it will create around 250 new jobs.
Councillors agreed that, due to the specialist nature of the technical facilities, the centre would benefit from a commercial operator with experience and a track record of operating business centres.
Under the agreement, the operator will manage all aspects of FoodWorksSW on behalf of the council. All expenditure and costs for the operator will be covered by charges and rents from users of the centre and any profits will be put back into the centre to increase and improve the range of facilities and support for businesses.
A management board will be set up to monitor activity and provide strategic direction to the development of the centre.
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, the council’s deputy leader and executive member for economic development said: “This is another exciting development coming forward in North Somerset and something there is clearly a demand for.
“There is currently a lack of facilities to support food and drink businesses in the region. FoodWorksSW will fill that gap and will not only benefit some of our smaller businesses, but will also kick-start others. It will play a vital role in the council’s bid to drive growth in the North Somerset economy and create local jobs.
“We are keen to get an operator on board early and there is already a great deal of interest. Eight organisations from across the country, including the main operators of comparable centres in the UK, attended an operators information day held recently to gauge interest in the centre.”