Fears grow over barrier to glasshouse work

Lack of support from planning system for glasshouse developments to be addressed at Growers Look Ahead conference.

Chancellor George Osborne - image: HM Treasury
Chancellor George Osborne - image: HM Treasury

Concerns are growing over the future development of the glasshouse sector in the UK as details emerge of the latest business to have its expansion plans rejected at the planning stage.

Crosby's bought a 4.4ha site in Antrobus and applied for planning permission for 1.6ha of glass. But the scheme was rejected by planners earlier this year.

This week, the MP for Tatton, chancellor George Osborne, said he was unable to help the Cheshire grower after he was approached by Crosby's Nurseries owner and constituent Brian Crosby.

Crosby wrote to Osborne asking what could be done to help the horticulture industry with repeated rejections of planning applications. He warned that if the situation is allowed to continue, no glasshouse nurseries will be built in the UK, which goes against Government policy to help small businesses and will lead to more plants being imported from overseas.

"He replied that he has no influence over local planning," said Crosby. "His reply doesn't answer my question."

Referring to his original application, he said:"We had to present this in the town hall at an open meeting for the public and if there were 120 there 119 were against it. We were up against nimbyism.

"They rejected it on the grounds of visual impact and highways. I know of six other growers, including one in Lancashire, with the same problem. He put in for four acres and was rejected for the same reason."

Crosby said he was unlikely to risk an appeal. "We took a planning barrister's advice about going to appeal and he said there was a 50/50 chance. Spending £30,000 for a 50/50 chance isn't good, is it?"

Crosby's is the latest in a series of growers that have been unable to get planning permission for new glasshouses. Recent examples include Madestein UK in Chichester and Valley Grown Nursery in Essex.

In a letter to HW last month, former British Tomato Growers Association executive officer Gerry Hayman said the refusal of the Madestein application for a £20m glasshouse and dismissal of its appeal by the planning inspector "should ring alarm bells in the industry".

He added: "If you cannot build glasshouses in an area that has supported such businesses for generations, in flat farmland that affords no visual, ecological or archaeological features that would outweigh the economic benefits of such a development, and in an area offering the highest natural light levels in mainland UK, where can you build them?"

Planning will be a major point of discussion at the British Protected Ornamentals Association Growers Look Ahead conference next month, where NFU planning adviser Ivan Moss will speak about the issue.


Industry responds to continued refusal of planning permission for nursery glasshouse developments

Ian Riggs, chairman, British Protected Ornamentals Association

"This is of such great concern to British Protected Ornamentals Association (BPOA) members that at our upcoming Growers Look Ahead event I have invited Ivan Moss, NFU planning adviser, to speak.

"Members are confused by the varying attitudes to planning across the nation, where permission is granted more pragmatically, for example, in Lincolnshire.

"However, to make the most of sunlight hours, climatic conditions and ease of access to customers and transport, growers favour certain areas. These inevitably have a long-standing tradition of protected ornamental production, have been established for considerable time and contributed greatly to local businesses and communities.

"I will be, as BPOA chairman, pressing the case both for members and the wider glasshouse sector in any discussions, forums and meetings with relevant bodies and Government departments, both regionally and nationally."

John Hall, executive consultant, West Sussex Growers Association

"We lost the big one in West Sussex with Madestein and Lee Valley lost a big one there, and now there's this one. It's an unfortunate set of precedents that the industry needs to learn from and combat.

"We need to make our case more clearly to those who influence these decisions. We know that Madestein and Lee Valley were supported by the officers and the business community. The issue is to do with the politics and the councillors failing to be convinced. We need to use PR to get through to them.

"We need to put forward the benefits that the horticulture industry brings. It's not just about the horticulture industry, it's about economics and jobs, and getting food and plants to customers seven days a week.

"There is this disconnect between customers who want to shop seven days a week and buy all this lovely produce but don't want the other side of it. We in West Sussex are trying to engage more and more with councillors and we must tell that story over and over again."

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