British agricultural success story. Four words seen together infrequently. Yet the growth of the British soft fruit industry is exactly that.
Sales of UK-grown berries in supermarkets have risen 130% in the past four years and much of this success can be attributed to the use of Spanish polytunnels.
Ten ago years, the perception of British soft fruit was that it was of variable quality and that, all too often, as soon as the season had started, it was all over.
The introduction of polytunnels to Britain changed all that, and now British berries can be seen from May to October. They have a quality that rivals anything that can be produced anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately polytunnels attract criticism. A particularly contentious issue is the visual impact. Growers have been sensitive to these concerns and have responded with the development of a national code of practice.
In the code, growers are required to avoid obscuring views by planting hedgerows and trees, and to use less luminant polythene to reduce reflective glare.
Growers have gone out of their way to engage on this issue - aware of the economic advantages of polytunnels, but sensitive to the concerns of those living nearby.
There is more that can be done. The NFU intends to develop a step-by-step guide for growers to enable them to engage on a local and regional level with their neighbours and with planning authorities.
But we can only do so much on our own. We need vocal support from
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