Research centre heralded as local boost

PLANS for a multi-million pound investment at a key research centre have been heralded as vital to combating critically low wages in Yorkshire by attracting as many as 1,000 highly-skilled jobs.

The Government has confirmed that a major expansion is being drawn up for the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) site at Sand Hutton in North Yorkshire. It is hoped the plans will create space for private sector businesses and other agencies specialising in bioscience and food sciences at the site on the district boundary of Ryedale and York.

The need to boost job opportunities and diversify the economic foundations have been pinpointed as among the most pressing issues by Ryedale District Council’s leader Linda Cowling, who was appointed last month. Average wages in Ryedale are less than £16,500-a-year – the lowest in the region and below the national average.

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Coun Cowling claimed the arrival of hundreds of skilled jobs would be “great news” for the district, and added: “These are the type of jobs we need because many of them will be skilled and relatively highly-paid which will be of enormous benefit to our often low wage economy.”

The value of the masterplan, which is being promoted by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Local Enterprise Agency for York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding, has been put as high as £100m. The council will work with York University and Science City York to ensure the development becomes a reality. A Defra spokeswoman confirmed plans are being drawn up for the Sand Hutton site, although the exact level of investment and timescales have yet to be finalised.

A further announcement is expected shortly about another 200 jobs which will be created through enlarging an existing high-tech engineering company in Ryedale.