A COMMUNITY is being asked for its reaction to controversial plans for a new half-a-million square foot drinks factory.

Cawingredients, at Leeming Bar, is holding a consultation evening to ask residents what they think about the £100m scheme to double the size of its existing centre, creating about 400 new jobs over the next five to 15 years.

The company already has a half-a-million square foot soft drinks factory and warehouse complex on the site employing more than 400 workers. The proposal is for a 531,000 square foot factory at Aiskew Moor, just east of Leeming Bar.

Members of campaign group the Friends of Leeming Bar say they fear it will be a further blot on the landscape, and believe the company will disregard their input. However the firm says, as a family business with long standing roots in Leeming Bar, it is committed to working closely with the community.

Richard Harrison, chief executive, said: “We are pleased to share these proposals with the local community, taking their views on board as we develop our plans. Over the coming years, this proposal will create hundreds of opportunities for jobs and career development, as well as stimulating economic growth in the local area and wider region.

“We are extremely proud of the positive contributions we have made to Leeming Bar and North Yorkshire’s economy over more than a decade. We hope that local residents, businesses, and other interested parties will take this chance to have their say on these proposals, so that we can use their feedback to help shape the plans and therefore reflect people’s aspirations for the Leeming Bar area.”

Dr Matthew Sawyer, of the Friends of Leeming Bar, said the group fears Cawingredients will ignore their concerns. He added: “Naturally the villagers have been very concerned throughout the Local Plan development process about Cawingredients' proposal to concrete over productive Yorkshire farmland. While the residents value the opportunity to view the details of the plans, they are highly suspicious that the disregarding of our input and opinions by Hambleton Council will occur again as Cawingredients continue to steamroller over the views of the villagers.”

A consultation website has been launched, www.leemingbarconsultation.com, and an open meeting is being held on Wednesday, June 8, from 4pm to 7pm at The Reubens, Bedale Road, Leeming Bar.