Change of use for Alan Bartlett and Sons Chatteris site will create 200 jobs
Up to 200 new full-time jobs could be created if a former vegetable packing place is given a new lease of life by planners.
Alan Bartlett and Sons have applied for retrospective planning permission for a change of use of its defunct vegetable packing plant in Huntingdon Road, Chatteris.
The company, which closed the plant in June with the loss of 300 jobs, wants to change the use of a number of units on the site to the storage, packing and distribution of flowers, plants and food.
The aim is for MM Flowers, which already operates out of Alconbury Weald, to expand its business into units F1 to F4 and G1 to G4, which are all part of the two main buildings on the site along with minor extensions.
MM Flowers is a specialist provider of cut flowers to the retail industry. The company sources flowers from around the world, packing them and forwarding them to retail outlets such as supermarkets.
A design and access statement drawn up by Eddisons in support of the application explains MM Flowers will employ up to 200 people at this site, in addition to those already employed at Alconbury Weald.
It says there will be up to 20 lorries a day accessing the site bringing flowers and plants from ports and airports imported from Kenya, Holland and Columbia.
The lorries will be unloaded, sorted and packaged for redistribution to the retail market including supermarkets. The state ment adds the lorries will often be reloaded to take the finished products out to clients.
Food on the site will consist of chocolates and alcohol used to make up gift packs.
Staff will work in shifts of nine or 10 hours with two 12-hour shifts operating during peak times (Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day).
The statement says: "Staff numbers range from 100 to 200 staff. Due to the length of shifts these are full-time jobs."
The aim is to source staff via the agency StaffLine, which was also used for the previous vegetable processing business.
It is anticipated most of the staff will come from local towns and villages and StaffLine provides a coach or minibus shuttle for staff to and from work in these places.
It argues the change of use will see no proposed changes to the external appearance of the site and the activities and vehicles associated with the use are "similar to previous experience" and the proposed use will have no additional impact on the character of appearance of the area.
The remainder of the site is currently vacant, with the exception of the onion stores, which are used by one onion supplier, and will be the subject of a separate planning application for alternative uses for the remaining units.
These will be used for a mix of uses linked to retail, general industrial and storage.
Chatteris Town Council has given its support to the application but has recommended a warning sign be put up on the A141 stating "traffic turning right" just before the entrance to the site on the approach from Huntingdon to Chatteris.