Princess Anne tours state-of-the-art Lea Valley glasshouse

The Princess Royal has been given a tour of Valley Grown Nurseries' new £9m state-of-the-art pepper and tomato glasshouse in Nazeing, Essex.

Image: NFU East Anglia
Image: NFU East Anglia

Valley Grown co-owners Vince and Jimmy Russo showed the princess round the 92,000m2 site, described as the largest addition of glasshouses to the Lea Valley since the 1950s, including the packing and grading area where automated trolleys are used to bring produce out of the glasshouses.

She unveiled a commemorative plaque and signed the same Lea Valley Growers' Association visitors' book that her grandmother, The Queen Mother, signed when she visited the Lea Valley in June 1959.

She also met nursery managers and workers and invited guests, including NFU President Meurig Raymond.

Vince Russo said: "We were pleased and honoured to host the Princess Royal today. Her visit allowed us to demonstrate how we are investing in the latest technology and techniques to grow sweet peppers and tomatoes with the best quality and maximum shelf life.

"She appeared to be genuinely interested in the growing process, including finding out more about the automation we have introduced throughout the new glasshouse."

Lea Valley Growers Association secretary Lee Stiles said: "This new glasshouse represents an exciting development for the Lea Valley. "Much has changed since the Queen Mother's visit almost 60 years ago, but one thing that has remained constant is the enthusiasm and commitment of our growers to produce the best quality fresh food for the British public."

The development was opposed by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, which launched an unsuccessful judicial review of the the scheme's planning consent. Epping Forest District Council's local plan however supports the region's glasshouse sector.

The Lea Valley area has around 120 hectares of specialist glasshouses, where growers produce over 200 million cucumbers, sweet peppers and other salad crops every year.

Valley Grown Nurseries is among the growers shortlisted for the UK Grower Awards, to be held on 23 February.

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