Polytunnels overcome Herefordshire council's objections

A soft fruit grower has been given approval by Herefordshire County Council for crops to be grown in polytunnels at a farm near King's Caple following a committee hearing at which an NFU adviser spoke on behalf of the applicant.

The planners recommended that the application by Neil Cockburn, of Pennoxstone Court Farm, should be refused.

The application was part of a long-running battle between Cockburn and the local authority, which three years ago served an enforcement noticed on the grower for erecting polytunnels without planning permission.

The council later withdrew its anti-polytunnel policy after receiving notice of a judicial review initiated by Cockburn (HW, 22 November, 2007).

Cockburn said the rejection of his latest application would mean the loss of 14 full-time and 100 part-time jobs, along with a £3m contribution to the local economy.

NFU policy adviser Ivan Moss supported his stance, adding that the tunnels would have no permanent impact on the environment and were essential to the business.

The committee had received more than 100 letters and a 300-signature petition in support of Cockburn.

But it also heard strong objections from residents based on the development's location in the Wye Valley area of outstanding natural beauty. Access via narrow country lanes was also a concern.

The application was passed by a slim majority. Cockburn was unavailable for comment as Grower went to press.


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