A MAJOR employer in south Cumbria could triple its capacity and create dozens of new jobs after plans for a new industrial building were given the green light.

Members of South Lakeland’s local area planning committee for Westmorland and Furness Council approved proposals from Kendal Nutricare Ltd, against planning officers’ recommendations, to construct a 39-metre-tall industrial building.

The proposed building will house a spray dryer, used in the manufacturing of infant formula, and will be located in the Lake District Business Park, off Mint Bridge Road.

The application is approved subject to a series of conditions relating to biodiversity net gain, landscaping, external lighting, surface water, parking, colours, contamination and construction management.

According to planning documents the existing spray dryer is a ‘bottleneck’ in the existing process and the proposed spray dryer would allow production capacity to triple without any additional expansion. The applicant stated this could lead to the creation of 50 jobs in three years.

Cabinet member for climate and biodiversity councillor Giles Archibald told the committee it would be ‘crazy not to support’ the business.

He added: “I think this is an enterprise that we should be supporting, and not just in terms of the impact on the number of jobs but the impact on the farming community and the impact on our supply of baby formula.

“There are a lot of positives, and we really should be supportive. I understand the visual impacts and success sometimes has some downsides and I see the economic benefits way outweigh the visual impacts.”

Planning officers previously recommended the application for refusal as it would cause ‘significant harm’ to the landscape.

The report said: “The proposed building would be considerably taller than any of the surrounding buildings and would, therefore, be very prominent on the skyline of north Kendal.

“The proposed development would result in significant harm to landscape character and visual amenity and the economic benefits derived from the scheme are not considered to outweigh the harm the proposal would create, particularly given that the applicant could achieve increased production with a lower height spray dryer”, it adds.

Senior project manager at Kendal Nutricare Mark Gourlay told the committee he understood concerns over the building size but added it is ‘essential’ to secure the company’s future in Kendal.

The committee heard the applicant had lowered the height of the building by over two metres from a previously proposed 41 metres to 39 metres.

Mr Gourlay: “The building has been designed around the equipment and the equipment has been designed for the best quality and highest efficiency, to ensure we remain competitive.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson had written a letter in support of the application. He said the decision could make the difference between long-term survival – or closure of the site.

The letter said: “As a business of national strategic importance and the sole manufacturer of infant formula in the United Kingdom – an essential, sole food source for newborn infants – I believe this development is of critical importance to the Kendal community, UK dairy farmers, national food security and the broader UK economy.

“Crucially this decision by the council comes at a pivotal moment when KNC must choose whether to continue investing in their Kendal facility (increasing jobs, local dairy intake and UK exports) or expand overseas to meet growing demand.

“Given their existing dryer is at capacity and has a limited remaining lifespan, this decision could make the difference between the long-term survival of this site and its closure.”

Members of South Lakeland local area planning committee approved the application subject to conditions on Thursday April 11 at Kendal Town Hall.