Sussex study is model for production sector

There are two things that really stand out in the West Sussex Growers Association (WSGA) study into the future of the glasshouse sector in this key region for protected cropping.

The first is the sheer dynamism of so many of its member businesses, which include world-class operators. That dynamism is reflected in those businesses' very healthy desire to continue to move their operations forward through expansion.

The second is just how powerful the group's decision to take the initiative and carry out research into the scale of the sector in its region - and the challenges facing it - will prove to be. Thanks to the figures unearthed by the research, for the first time representatives of the glasshouse sector in West Sussex - or, indeed, individual business owners - will be able to put the case for the sector's importance to the region to the relevant local authorities when seeking support for new developments, with the full weight of accurate, up-to-date information and relevant statistics behind them.

And they need it. As the report notes, in the food sector - where most of the planning applications for the largest glasshouses lie, due to the necessary economies of scale - developments are increasingly being turned down. This is despite the push that is coming from central government for increased production of vegetables and fruit by the UK's growers. WSGA's excellent initiative is a crucial first step in turning that around in the growing region of West Sussex.

However, there is potential for an even bigger legacy should the example set by the WSGA be taken up by growers the length and breadth of Britain. As we note in our report (see p3), planning is causing havoc with larger development in many parts of the UK, to the considerable cost of those seeking to drive their businesses forward.

It is a fact that politics today is a numbers game. Without the statistics to back your case, you don't count. But a report such as this could be generated for every key growing region around the country. Just imagine what a powerful addition to the production horticulture armoury that would be.


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