TWO FARMS west of Stafford have been given the green lights they need to carry on supplying soft fruit to customers across the country.
Plans to return polytunnels from Shropshire to Lower Reule Farm at Church Eaton were approved by Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee last week, as was an application by Tom Busby to site 30 caravans at Knightley Hall Farm, Knightley, for "essential" seasonal workers.
The caravan plan had been called in for discussion by Councillor Mike Smith, to consider the impact on the rural area and sustainability issues.
More than 40 people objected to the application, alongside Gnosall and High Offley’s parish councils and MP Bill Cash.
He said: “The scale of the development is too large for this rural area. The proposed site for the caravans is very remote and 30 caravans in this rural area will increase the population of Knightley by some 200 per cent.
“The proposals are unsustainable given that the occupants of the caravans, possibly over 230, would not have access to public transport and it seems unlikely they are to have their own vehicles.
“If seasonal workers did, for example, choose to walk to the nearest shop, the route to Gnosall which is over three miles away would be along a narrow, unlit lane with no proper footpath, which is unacceptable.”
Concerns had also been previously raised about the carvans’ siting near a slurry tank.
But John Heath, speaking on behalf of Mr Busby, told the meeting the tank was to be taken out of use.
He added that the workers spend “a substantial proportion of their income in Stafford, which represents an important contribution to the local area”.
Charles Kidson from Lower Reule Farm also spoke of the contribution to the local economy made by his enterprise, to local tradespeople and shops including electricians, printers and the Post Office.
“We spend around £600,000 (a year) within the local economy and use local businesses. We employ 240 seasonal workers and 15 full-time workers and we reckon they spend £750,000 a year.
“We are proud that is the reason Gnosall has a bakery, post office, greengrocers and Co-op. Our workers use the bus route.
“We pay £302,000 business tax and produce £4.5million of soft fruit at Lower Reule Farm.”
The polytunnel plans – the third phase at Lower Reule Farm, had to be determined by the committee because it was classed as a large scale application. Two previous applications for polytunnels at Lower Reule Farm were approved in 2009 and 2011.