UK soft fruit :
65% covered
with tunnels
Over the last 12 months concerns have started to be raised within some isolated geographical areas about the increasing use of polythene tunnels in high value horticulture. Leading the way has been Herefordshire where two or three vocal residents have attempted to put

Increase yields
30 to 35% improved class one yield

Growers success story
Produce earlier and later crops

Polythene reduces glare
Massively reduce the reflective glare

Government's viewpont
The proposal for a local code of practice on the use of polytunnels seems sensible and could, potentially, be a helpful initiative.
Customer viewpoint
We as consumers can have better British soft fruit for longer than ever before. We now can enjoy the pleasure of eating British berries for approx 26 weeks, as opposed to only 5-6 weeks of season, which was the conventional period of cropping 20 years ago.
theitem firmly on the planner’s agenda.In addition to Herefordshire we are also aware of other isolated issues arising in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Lincolnshire. With our increasing use and reliance on the deployment of multi-bay tunnels, it is vital that we are aware of the issues and respond positively to concerns of some local residents and planners.

Herefordshire – a national test bed

Concerns over the use of polythene tunnels were first raised in 2001 primarily orchestrated by one county resident. Significant local letter writing publicity was generated culminating in a BBC Country File programme in November 2002. Herefordshire is a traditional top fruit, hops and beef rearing county and with significant decline in these mature sectors, the local council and planners have been very positive about the need to protect the livelihoods of growers succeeding in soft fruit.

Based on this presentation and subsequent discussions with the council planners and concerned residents, Herefordshire County Council devised a Voluntary Code of Practice. This was published in the Spring of 2003 and has been issued to all growers in Herefordshire. The voluntary code is an excellent and practical solution for growers, planners and concerned residents.

The code is voluntary, but it is imperative that all growers do their utmost to comply to ensure that opponents to the use of poly tunnels do not have grounds to instigate more onerous legislation.

What can growers do if they are facing local concerns?

Firstly, it is important to understand that the planning jurisdiction for poly tunnels is not a national issue but one that is determined at county planning level. On this basis it is important that growers work positively with their local planners if concerns are raised. Specifically:
  • Present the vital need for tunnels on your farm (Haygrove have a short summary that you can tailor to assist your presentation)
  • Respond positively to concerned neighbours. Often an invitation to see the farm to help them understand the issues is suffice
  • Be sensitive to the needs of neighbours
  • Point local planners to the precedent set for a voluntary code in Herefordshire.
    The best contact at Herefordshire Council is:
    Alan Poole, Chief Development Control Officer (Tel 01432261782) and
    Jonathan Barrett, Head of Planning Services (Tel 01432383098)

If needed seek professional help. Two important points of contact are as follows:

  • NFU legal help line 087084000638 or your local NFU secretary. NFU financial support is available to seek legal advise
  • Aspury Solicitors. Telephone 01159402500. This is the firm of solicitors that have worked on the Herefordshire case and have most experience of the issues
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