New and existing polytunnels must get planning permission, council confirms

NFU will fight "crazy" decision

Herefordshire Council has officially ruled that all polytunnels — both existing and proposed — will have to be the subject of planning permission applications. The decision is a major blow for all growers who told Grower last week that they fear other councils around the UK will now follow suit (Grower, 22 March). NFU president Peter Kendall told Grower that the union was going to fight the “crazy” decision and would do anything it could to stop businesses being affected. The NFU argues that the Hall Hunter case at Tuesley Farm in Surrey last year, on which Herefordshire Council is basing its decision, did not set a precedent in law. Herefordshire Council’s legal practice manager Kevin O’Keefe said: “The Tuesley Farm court case has finally crystallised the law relating to polytunnels, with the judge giving a clear indication such developments do need planning permission. We welcome the clarity the court case has given to us and feel the usual planning procedures will be the correct way to decide on such developments.” Confusion reigned at the pivotal meeting of the council’s cabinet to decide if polytunnels should fall within planning regime. Herefordshire-based soft fruit grower Anthony Snell said: “The whole thing was a complete dog’s dinner. There was complete and utter confusion. “I don’t think the anti-tunnel protesters nor the supporters knew what was happening and neither walked out of there happy. It was so long-winded. The councillors seemed totally confused and didn’t seem to know what it was all about.” There has been frustration about Herefordshire Council’s lack of consultation with growers who need polytunnels for their livelihoods. Kendall wrote to Herefordshire Council in an effort to delay its crucial decision — but the cabinet still included the issue on its agenda despite protestations. The NFU’s legal team said the council’s decision was not based on proper legal advice. Kendall added: “We will take action. [The council] cannot change policy for existing businesses — it will have a phenomenal impact on farmers.” L A petition has begun online on the 10 Downing Street e-petitions website to fight the need for planning permission on polytunnels. Petition creator Georgina Bass said: “Councils should not insist on permission — [polytunnels] are as temporary as a greenhouse.” British Summer Fruits chairman Laurence Olins said: “I urge members to sign this petition and anyone who supports British fresh produce.” See petitions.pm. gov.uk/noPP4polytunnels .

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