The frustrations of the unique Chichester plain growing community that wants to up production but has seen glasshouse expansion blocked by planning were expressed powerfully by West Sussex Growers Association chairman Colin Frampton at the group's annual dinner last week.
Members and guests, including Madestein, one of three businesses around the UK to see major glasshouse projects refused planning permission this year, heard Frampton remind the audience, including local politicians, that "the domestic market wants our products."
Using Sainsbury's as an example, Frampton said just six weeks ago it "announced with great fanfare" that it wants to double the food supplied by British growers by 2020. "Even the banks are interested in backing expansion, which is miraculous," he added.
"Unfortunately, nobody wants us to build large-scale glasshouses unless we are prepared to pay exorbitant agricultural land values."
Referring to businesses that have left the area, Frampton said: "We don't want to uproot and move out - why should we? We have generations of families involved in growing here, several fathers and sons are here tonight. We've also the best growing climate in the UK, with good light and relatively mild temperatures."
Exacerbating the situation is the imminent loss of large acreages of glasshouses in the Littlehampton and Angmering areas to housing.
The association wants criteria-based decisions to replace horticultural development areas in the Chichester district, allowing more sites to be examined to take the pressure off land prices.
Also speaking at the event was Horticultural Development Company chairman Neil Bragg.
Local energy hubs Winning support for horticultural expansion
The West Sussex Growers Association attracted funding from the Horticultural Development Company, LEADER programme and local authorities to produce a plan to develop local energy hubs based on horticulture but involving all of the community.
It highlights the potential for the industry to host renewable energy and energy-from-waste schemes on horticultural sites. They would allow the sustainable production of local produce while providing green energy for local homes and businesses.
It suggests that the proposal could help the industry to expand by winning local support for horticultural businesses seeking planning permission.
Reading Agricultural Consultants director Peter Danks said: "These hubs can offer environmental benefits and opportunities for employment. So there is a range of benefits that can help get local councils onside with planning applications. However there are still a number of obstacles to this, such as land ownership."