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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 18:25 GMT
Landmark ruling over polytunnels
Crops growing inside a polytunnel
Polytunnels are used to grow frost-sensitive fruit
Countryside campaigners have said they are delighted with a High Court ruling that farmers need planning permission to put up plastic polytunnels.

The test case was brought by the owner of Tuesley Farm, near Godalming, Surrey, after Waverley Borough Council ordered its polytunnels to be removed.

The farm had argued the polytunnels were an "agricultural use of land" and therefore exempt from planning rules.

Soft fruit growers said the ruling put at risk Britain's 200m industry.

The Hall Hunter Partnership bought Tuesley Farm in 2003 and grows strawberries, raspberries and blackberries there.

If UK growers are unable to meet demand for berries then imported fruit will appear on supermarket shelves
British Summer Fruits

Polytunnels were erected between March and November 2004, but the council issued planning enforcement notices ordering them to be taken down because they did not have planning permission.

A planning inspector upheld the council's decision after a 13-day planning inquiry.

More than 80 families living nearby, who described the tunnels as a "blight on this scenic landscape" led a fierce campaign against them.

Tim Harrold, Surrey chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, (CPRE) said it would be celebrating with the community.

'Important countryside'

"It is a wonderful result because people have stood up and been counted defending some of the most important countryside we have," he said.

"It is not unreasonable to expect landowners to obtain planning consent."

The CPRE said the landmark decision was seen as important guidance for other parts of the country such as Gloucestershire, Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

British Summer Fruits, which represents growers of 92% of the UK-produced soft fruit sold in supermarkets, said it could affect the future of one of the UK's most successful areas of agriculture.

"Spanish polytunnels, which are used for protecting berries from our inclement weather, cover a mere 0.01% of UK agricultural land.

"If UK growers are unable to meet the increasing consumer demand for berries then imported fruit will appear on supermarket shelves during our summer season."

The National Farmers' Union said it was disappointed at the ruling and was standing firmly behind the balanced use of crop covers such as Spanish polytunnels.


SEE ALSO
Polytunnels planning row in court
14 Dec 06 |  Southern Counties
Farm may appeal over polytunnels
22 Oct 06 |  Hereford/Worcs
Protest pensioner destroys crops
19 May 06 |  Hereford/Worcs
Tougher crop tunnel rules sought
19 Dec 05 |  Scotland
Residents seeking polytunnel laws
15 Feb 05 |  Hereford/Worcs

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