In a series of documents outlining its plans for a mega dairy in Aston Clinton, Arla says: “This would be one of the biggest employment investments in the area for many years, creating approximately 680 skilled jobs.
“In addition, several hundred construction jobs will be created and the additional commercial space, if developed, could foster a further 500 jobs.”
Arla, which has declined to comment on analysts’ predictions that the net increase in jobs would be minimal given that it is likely to close older plants as the new dairy came on-stream, said a formal planning application would be submitted shortly.
The 18-month construction project was set to begin in mid-2011 with production due to begin at the end of 2012 (assuming no major problems with the planning application).
It also claims that the site will contribute “in excess of £17m a year into the local economy” and prove a catalyst for further investment in the region.
A detailed planning application will be submitted shortly for the milk processing facility, ancillary offices, treatment and energy centre together with the landscaping proposal, while an ‘outline application’ will also be submitted for an adjacent commercial development.
Mixed public reaction
Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk after local residents concerned about its plans contacted this publication, a spokeswoman said: “In terms of residents' responses to our proposals at the public meetings [held in Aston Clinton, Buckland Village and Weston Turville on December 8 and 9], as you would expect we received mixed reactions.
“Some concerns were raised however there was also lots of very positive feedback, including from the local MP [Conservative David Lidington] who is very supportive of our proposal.”
FoodManufacture.co.uk has not yet had a response from Lidington, but entries on his blog suggest his initial reaction to the proposed dairy was favourable.
He says: “My own first reaction to Arla’s plans is to welcome a development that will bring jobs to the Aylesbury area. Our local economy has far too few big private sector employers and the largest, Lloyds/HBOS, is cutting jobs sharply.”
However, it was also vital to address locals’ concerns, he said. “I hope that Arla’s decision to take the initiative in publicising its plans will mean that the debate can take place on the basis of a shared understanding by of the facts.”
However, other residents remain concerned about the environmental impact of the site and argue that many local people were not aware that public meetings were taking place until after the event and dispute claims that leaflets outlining the plans had been as widely distributed as Arla claimed.
One resident said: “What about the inadequate road links, the proximity to RAF Halton, and the distance from motorway networks in all directions meaning up to 500 HGVs a day will have to find their way to and from the site on country lanes, A and B roads and through congested local towns like Aylesbury?”
But Arla rejected these concerns, claiming that the dairy, which is on the outskirts of Aylesbury, would “ensure minimum disruption to the urban areas of Aylesbury” and that large vehicles would not be using country lanes.
The firm, which also plans to plant scores of new trees and hedgerows in the site, also claimed that it would have “minimal impact on the air quality of the surrounding area”. While it would be “visible”to the locals, it would nevertheless “form a small component of a wide, expansive view” of the Chiltern Hills, added bosses.
Natural lighting, natural ventilation and utility efficiencies would also be used to deliver a zero-carbon facility and a zero waste to landfill target, they added.