Answers needed on planning

As details emerge of yet another glasshouse grower that has been forced to watch their expansion plans shattered at the planning stage on grounds of "visual impact", the sector can be forgiven for expressing some confusion at precisely where politicians who argue in favour of measures to stimulate much-needed economic growth expect it to take place.

And the confusion doesn't end there. While chancellor George Osborne informed his constituent Brian Crosby of leading bedding grower Crosby's Nurseries that he couldn't help in what was a "local" issue after the nursery had its plans to build new glass in Cheshire turned down earlier this year, elsewhere, Westminster politicians have seen fit to get actively involved.

In West Sussex, for instance, where salads grower Madestein had its appeal against a failed planning application turned down last month, constituency MP Andrew Tyrie gave his support to a campaign against the development. Perhaps "local" in West Sussex means something different to Cheshire.

It is particularly concerning that the recent spate of rejections has occurred in horticultural heartlands, raising the fundamental question of precisely how the glasshouse sector is expected to move forward profitably so it can continue to support jobs and economic growth in rural communities.

Industry veteran Gerry Hayman warned after the Madestein rejection, glasshouse sites in neighbouring areas are being developed for residential and commercial use, fuelling yet more demand for suitable glasshouse sites. If you cannot build glasshouses in an area that has supported such businesses for generations, asked Hayman, then where can you build them? It's a question that urgently needs an answer.

KATE LOWE, EDITOR - kate.lowe@haymarket.com.


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