Herefordshire approves seasonal workers' accommodation for S&A Produce

S&A Produce has welcomed Herefordshire County Council's decision to approve its plans for new seasonal workers' accommodation.

Last week's thumbs up from the council follows a consultation process by the Herefordshire-based soft fruit grower with the local authority, Marden Parish Council and local residents regarding the future of the company's operations at Brook Farm in Marden.

S&A Produce managing director Frank Green said: "Seasonal workers are vital to our business. We could not continue our operations without them and I am pleased we now have the permissions we need to be able to provide suitable accommodation for them."

In May 2009, planning permission for polytunnels on the site was granted but consent for workers accommodation was refused on the grounds of scale and form.

The company revised its plans by scaling down the accommodation capacity from 1,000 to 852 people and removing workers' "pods", ensuring that all accommodation would comprise only caravans and dormitories.

Meanwhile, strawberries grown at S&A's Kent glasshouses near Faversham and Whitstable went on sale in selected Tesco stores across the county last Thursday (18 March) - 10 days earlier than last year.

Tesco strawberry buyer Ben Reed said: "Not only are we enjoying the first warm weather of the year, but we've also now got the first British strawberries, so summer is well and truly on the way.

"Many shoppers think of the first homegrown strawberries as being bitter and hard, but the ones we've got our hands on are delicious."

Tesco fruit technical manager Ciara Grace added: "Our main glasshouse supplier has this year used a different variety of strawberry, called Sonata, which bears fruit earlier than an Elsanta, the commonly-used early season type. He also planted them in December rather than January in order to bear fruit earlier."

Tesco has the largest market share of strawberries and sells around 27 per cent of the total British crop produced each year.

Morrisons and Waitrose have also started selling this year's strawberries, with Waitrose selling Elsantas grown by Harry Hall of Hall Hunter in Littlehampton as part of its "essentials" brand.

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