Ice cream entrepreneur Jack van Praag is to take over Manor Farm, Girton, which former county councillor deputy leader Roger Hickford vacated at the height of the #farmgate scandal.
Jack’s Gelato was founded just 12 years ago, and the former chef has built it into an iconic brand, with two shops as well in Cambridge.
Now Jack has applied to South Cambridgeshire District Council for change of use at Manor Farm to an ice cream manufacturing centre.
Former councillor Hickford obtained the tenancy of the Cambridgeshire County Council owned Manor Farm whilst a councillor and deputy leader.
Mr Hickford obtained consent to use Manor Farm as a canine training centre and Jack now wants to switch that to ice cream manufacturing.
He also wants to use solar panels to power the plant. A120kw solar array is proposed along the south-eastern boundary of the site.
His agent told planners the company “has a strong environmental focus and will be net zero no later than 2030.
“It uses electric vehicles and has minimised use of the single fossil fuel vehicle in its fleet to less than 1,000 miles a year, which will be replaced with an electric version when the opportunity arises.
“It uses no other fossil fuels in its operations. Every employee travels to work by foot, cycle, or train”.
His agent also explains that Jack’s company has invested huge resources, both in time and money in sourcing sustainable packaging.
“This is truly sustainable, which reaches beyond plant-based plastics that many businesses have accepted as a solution,” says the planning statement.
“Single use plastic and bioplastic has been completely removed. Jack’s Gelato leads by example and encourages the wider industry to adopt the same practices.
“The business provides high quality jobs in a sector that is not known for this. Salaries are upwards of 20% higher than industry averages, along with a host of other benefits not seen in this sector.
“Jack’s Gelato is an inclusive employer which promotes and improves diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
The new plant, if approved, will employ four people.
An independent investigation concluded that former Cambridgeshire County Council deputy leader Roger Hickford breached the council’s code of conduct in six different areas including bullying, improper use of his position and bringing the council into disrepute.
The report by Wilkin Chapman Investigating solicitors (link to the report here) was considered by the council’s constitution and ethics committee.
The investigation made an initial finding that Roger Hickford was acting in his official capacity when dealing with officers in respect of the tenancy at Manor Farm, Girton.
The full list of breaches are in respect of;
- Respect– he failed to treat officers and others acting on behalf of the council with respect.
- Bullying – he used a bullying manner in order for the council to pay for works that would otherwise be the responsibility of the tenant. He also used a bullying manner in order to set the terms of the lease for Manor Farm.
- Impartiality – he compromised officers and others’ impartiality in his dealings with regard to Manor Farm.
- Disrepute – his conduct towards officers and others and his conflict of interest would have reduced the public’s confidence in him being able to fulfil his role or the Council being able to discharge its functions.
- Improper use of position – he used his position as deputy leader to receive concessions that the council would not otherwise have agreed to.
- Interests – he failed to register a disclosable pecuniary interest (the tenancy of Manor Farm) within 28 days, and he failed to declare a non-statutory disclosable interest in meetings with regard to county farms matters.
However, the investigation found he did not breach paragraph of the code, in respect of misuse of council resources.
The investigation into code of conduct issues was an outcome of the 2021 audit into the process leading up to the award of the tenancy of Manor Farm, Girton, the subsequent decisions made regarding the tenancy and the processes and practices of the county’s farms estate.
The audit concluded correct procedures were followed in relation to the tenancy award process and approval process for potential additional extension works.
But eleven further serious concerns were raised in relation to financial, transparency and conduct issues.