Published: 06:00, 12 November 2020
A bid to expand the workforce at the UK’s largest fruit-growing firm has sparked dismay from neighbouring villagers who claim some staff defecate in the countryside.
FW Mansfield & Son wants permission for 20 extra caravans to be pitched up at its base near Bridge on the south side of Canterbury.
The plans come after the multi-million pound firm snapped up a further 275 acres of farmland in Nackington, and with it announced the creation of 80 new jobs.
It wants to house some of the new employees in six-berth caravans at Middle Pett Farm should the plans be approved.
But concerned villagers have blasted the proposals - fearing significant increases in traffic, litter and noise, and a rise in human faeces being found near public footpaths.
Helen Stephens says “peace and tranquillity” in the area has eroded due to the amount of existing seasonal workers, and says an extra 80 will escalate current problems.
Commenting on the plans, she said: “As an Area of Natural Outstanding Beauty these vans are a massive intrusion in the countryside, least of all the litter left by the residents on a daily basis and the defecating near footpaths and on verges.
“They have little respect for the permanent residents in the area.
“The addition of a further 20 mobile homes would mean a possible 270 people on a site which doesn’t have the appropriate amenities to cope with the existing number without adding to it. The number of people accessing the lane from the units through the hedging would be extremely dangerous to traffic.
“Our once beautiful countryside becomes more of an eyesore. If we had wanted to live around 250 or so neighbours we would have bought a house in the middle of town.”
Despite the criticism, the proposals have been warmly welcomed by others.
One supporter, Peter Kelly, said: “In the current climate it is fantastic that they are in a position to expand and even better that it can incorporate new jobs, of which the UK is crying out for.
“The pandemic has taken so many businesses from us and Mansfields are opening up more and more job opportunities.”
Mansfields, which has a fruit enterprise of 1.7 million trees across 1,480 acres of Kent countryside, was contacted for comment.
The caravan proposals have been officially submitted by managing director Paul Mansfield.