A planning decision forcing a soft fruit producer to remove polytunnels will stop large “bully boy” growers riding roughshod over rural communities, according to celebrity gardener Monty Don.
An appeal by the Hall Hunter Partnership against an order by Waverley Borough Council to remove polytunnels at Tuesley Farm, Surrey, because they were in breach of planning controls, was rejected.
This, said Don, would create “a level playing field” for those who opposed their widespread use.
Don has long campaigned
against large-scale polytunnels because he feels they ruin the countryside’s beauty.
He added: “This is a victory for the little guys. There’s a sense that big
fruit growers are large bully boys who throw their weight around. In this case, they have not got their way.”
The Herefordshire-based writer and broadcaster blamed the demands of multiple retailers for their use. Supermarket buyers had an “unsophisticated, brutalistic view of food production”, he said, which drove farmers to grow produce in unsustainable ways.
Don, who will today address the Soil Association’s annual conference, admitted that produce grown in polytunnels was preferable to that imported from abroad, but insisted it was simply “the lesser of two evils”.
And he scorned claims by industry bodies such as the NFU and British Summer Fruits that polytunnels cut pesticide use by 50%.“They still use lots of fungicides. You still get the run-off and sterilisation of the soil.”
The decision would boost the campaign by residents’ groups for restrictions, said Don. “This sets a precedent. Councils will be in a position to ask people to apply for planning permission for polytunnels.”
British Summer Fruits is a fervent supporter of polytunnels. It says they have boosted growers’ fortunes by extending British seasons and improving the quality of fruit.
Richard Clarke