One of the UK’s biggest fruit farming firms has won permission to erect polytunnels across a 27-acre site - despite fears about their impact on the countryside.
FW Mansfield and Son says more frequent and heavier rainstorms are destroying its cherry crop at Nickle Farm in Chartham.
So to protect its produce, it wants to install sheeted tunnels in six different locations at its sprawling base off the A28.
Mansfields says the protective polytunnels are “an essential feature of soft and top fruit growing in modern farming practice”.
But the plans attracted criticism from neighbours and Chartham Parish Council, concerned that the structures would become instant “blots on the landscape”.
But despite the letters of objection, Canterbury City Council’s planning team has green-lit the project.
A decision report compiled by council officers states: “The development is outside of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and many of the polytunnels are not visible due to the topography, or hidden by existing landscaping.
“So while some polytunnels may be visible, from longer distance views, this is not considered to be harmful in this instance.
“They are separated sufficiently from neighbours and would not result in any overbearing impacts, loss of light, light glare, loss of privacy or overshadowing.”
Mansfields says there is an increased demand for high-quality UK-grown fruit, so better protection for produce is required.
It says it will be able to invest in premium varieties thanks to the planning approval for the tunnels
“Without the polytunnels, crops’ success is left to significant chance and climate change, resulting in more frequent and heavier rainstorms, which wipe out entire cherry crops,” documents in the application state.
“Modern consumer expectations and that of the multiples who buy from F W Mansfield & Son are that produce will be of high quality and as a result, supermarkets will only purchase strawberries grown under cover.”
Across its Kent bases, Mansfields produces 208 million cherries a year. It has been operating at Nickle Farm since 1994, where it employs hundreds of people.
The firm is awaiting a decision on plans to install polytunnels across 57 acres in Nackington.