Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 11.30.45A Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) that will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the Somerset countryside and local food producers is to be created, the government announced today.

Eleven new zones across England will free up food and farming businesses, making it simpler and easier for them to grow, and will attract new businesses. Local communities will benefit from new jobs and the opportunity to develop local produce, boosting their economies.

The Heart of the South Local Enterprise Partnership has been allocated funding to develop the Bath and West showground into a food centre of excellence with test kitchens for product development, business space for start-ups, conference and meeting space for events, training and produce launches, education training facilities and on-going farm development.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

“Food Enterprise Zones will help unlock the potential of local food and farming businesses, boosting local economies and attracting more investment.

“Consumers both here and abroad want to buy Great British food. These zones will ensure we can grow more top quality produce and expand our food industry, which is worth more than £100bn a year to the UK economy – more than cars and aerospace combined.

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

FEZs will ensure that communities are able to grow their businesses while allowing them to protect their valuable countryside. They will give power to local people – allowing them to decide what kinds of businesses should be in their FEZ and where it should be located, developing those sectors that their region excels in.

Grants of up to £50,000 will be available to set up FEZs. Based around Local Development Orders, and in line with local priorities, they will make the planning process simpler and easier for food and farming businesses that want to expand.

As well as attracting investment, the Food Enterprise Zones will encourage closer ties between food and farming businesses to boost the domestic food and farming sector.

FEZs will also allow more local decision making on planning and development issues involving food and farming businesses.

There are eleven proposed Food Enterprise Zones with the potential for the scheme to roll out more widely in future.