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Caravans for Eastern European workers are essential for business says fruit farmer near Gnosall

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: June 27, 2014

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More than 200 workers could stay during the soft fruit season in 30 caravans land at Knightley Hall Farm - miles from the nearest shops but just metres from a slurry tank – residents campaigning against the plans have said.

But the plans have been recommended for approval by Stafford Borough Council.

Farmer Tom Busby, speaking at last week’s planning meeting, said: “It is essential for our business to continue having seasonal workers on site; without seasonal workers our business wouldn’t exist.

“Most of them are coming from eastern Europe. We tried to recruit staff locally and had 20 applicants; only one turned up and only lasted a day.

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“We are trying as a business to encourage more local staff to come and work for us but ultimately we are trying to increase our production as well. The consumer wants local produce and we are trying to grow a British product and reduce food miles.”

Gnosall, High Offley and Norbury parish councils have all objected to the application, as have 47 residents. Concerns include an open topped slurry lagoon sited next to the caravan site.

Gnosall parish councillor Roger Greatrex, who spoke against the application at last week’s planning committee, said: “You are being asked to approve the equivalent of 30 small bungalows outside the residential development boundary in an area with no sustainable facilities.

“The nearest health facilities are three miles away in Gnosall, the nearest shops are three and two miles away respectively with no transport links. The residents will have to walk down very narrow unlit roads that carry a high volume of traffic, and have no pavements.”

Councillor Frank James called for a site visit before the committee makes its decision and fellow councillors agreed. “Go and try living next to a slurry lagoon – slurry stinks,” he said.

“I don’t believe we can stop progress, we are stuck with polytunnels and caravans for a generation to come. But we need to be careful where we place them.”

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