THE environment secretary has announced a North Yorkshire town has become a designated food enterprise zone – giving its food and farming industry a huge boost.

Malton is to become one of six new zones in England where it will be made easier for food businesses to expand and new ones set up.

The £50,000 Defra funding – the maximum grant it can allocate – will go towards creating the food enterprise zone (Fez) at Malton Food Park, just outside the Ryedale town.

An agri-food park is expected to create employment for more than 500 people and plans also include relocating Malton’s livestock market to a purpose-built facility alongside it.

A livestock market will be situated alongside local food and farming-based businesses. There will also be additional space for businesses to develop new ideas at the nearby National Agri-Food Innovation Campus.

The zones will streamline planning procedures for businesses that meet the criteria, in order to help them expand, and will also enable closer links between farmers, manufacturers, retailers and researchers.

The park – announced by environment secretary Elizabeth Truss – was recently awarded £2.1m in local growth funding for highways work to open up the site for development.

Plans for Yorkshire’s first Fez were submitted by Ryedale District Council and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership, which has also invested in the site.

Barry Dodd, chairman of the enterprise partnership board, said: “One of our key priorities is to support our area to become a global leader in food, agri-tech and biorenewables.

“The Malton food enterprise zone will have close links to our world-leading work at the Food and Environment Research Agency in Sand Hutton and York’s Biorenewables Centre, which all work towards achieving that goal.”