Glasshouse industry fears spiral of decline following Madestein's failed expansion bid

The rejection of Madestein UK's appeal for permission to build a lettuce glasshouse near Chichester "should ring alarm bells in the British glasshouse industry", former British Tomato Growers Association executive officer Gerry Hayman has said (see Comment, p16).

The decision came just two months after Valley Grown Nursery had a similar appeal rebuffed by its local planning authority in Essex.

Cucumber Growers Association technical officer Derek Hargreaves told Grower: "Most planning authorities don't understand protected horticulture. They favour developing brownfield land and won't give permission on greenfield. But these days you need to be thinking of 4-5ha developments and the old glasshouse sites are usually too small. The result is a spiral of decline."

The situation contrasts sharply with the Netherlands, where authorities take an active role in helping growers upgrade to new sites, he added. "The industry there is supported from the top down - now they have too much glass. We need much more than we have, but can't get there."

Another industry figure commented: "We can engage with the councils but ultimately it's the councillors' decisions and often they, like MPs, will play safe."

While the National Planning Policy Framework, published in spring, urges planners "to assess the needs of the food production industry", he added: "There is a mismatch between that and what happens at local level - it's not joined up."

Parliamentary reaction - Local MP defends position despite prime minister's statement

Tory Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie has defended his support of a campaign to block Madestein's proposed development.

He told Grower: "I objected to the development not on the grounds of planning and food production but on the facts that I did." These were the anticipated pressure on local roads, the effect on the overall character of the Manhood peninsula and the question of how long any economic benefit from the development would remain, he said.

Gerry Hayman later commented: "David Cameron said in Prime Minister's Questions, in addition to other areas such as housebuilding: 'I want to back British agriculture.' Perhaps he should have a quiet word with his MP Andrew Tyrie."

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