Villagers 'misled' over farmer's polytunnel plansBy Laura Herbert
May 18, 2012
A farm owner who faced strong objections to plans to build polytunnels on his land has said villagers were “misled” in a campaign against the application.
EU Plants Ltd applied to build three-metre high polytunnels to grow soft fruits on 1.85 hectares of land at Manor Farm in Finchampstead.
The plans were approved by Wokingham Borough Council last month, despite more than 200 letters of objection.
Slavey Slavchev, owner of EU Plants Ltd, told The Wokingham Times: “We thought quite a lot of the things they [objectors] were saying were quite unfair.
“The traffic, for example. We are not by any means traffic intensive and the amount of traffic movements they suggested were exaggerated.
“All we are trying to do is grow some plants and make a living.
“We found it shocking the response we had at the meeting.”
He continued: “What is more frustrating is that we are one of the few people in the country who chose to go the legal way of doing it.
“Ninety per cent of the tunnels in this country haven’t got planning permission, and until two years ago nobody needed to apply for planning permission.
“We have tried to do it as good as it can be done and it was extremely frustrating for us to meet the opposition that we met.
“A few people have put the whole community against us. I’m sure in time people won’t be against us. I think they were misinformed.
“What we are trying to do is extremely sensible.
“I do not blame the residents for a minute because they have been misled.”
In its application, the company said the plastic tunnels would only enhance the quality of produce and not increase the quantity.
Mr Slavchev said: “We have missed the season now so the next time we need the tunnels will be December/January.
“It means we have got the summer to build them in the proper way. We have to look at the positives.
“Tunnels are key to what we do and have been critical for the industry.
“For nine months of the year in this country we eat English produced fruit because of tunnels – without them it would be two months of the year.
“They have revolutionised the industry and 99 per cent of fruit crops are covered with tunnels.
“We are 10 times less intensive than a fruit farm. We grow only the plants and sell them to the fruit farms and they are grown out in the open.”
He added: “There are one or two houses that are most affected by this planning application and I sympathise with these people and we are going to see what can be done to reduce the impact.”