Kent fruit grower G Charlton and Sons has applied for planning permission for around 30 acres of retractable Cravo greenhouses at its Church Farm site in Ulcombe.
As well as the application for approximately 11.94 ha (29.5 acres) of ‘retractable roof greenhouses’ for soft-fruit production, the company has applied for erection of a general purpose agricultural storage building, water storage tanks, drainage works, construction of a reservoir and landscaping.
The development would help improve the efficiency and profitability of the business through higher yields and better fruit quality, according to planning papers submitted by DHA Planning to Maidstone Borough Council.
Without the expansion, the company, which has its headquarters and packing site at Rumwood Green Farm in Langley, could lose vital contracts as supermarket customers would source elsewhere, the papers said, resulting in a loss to the local economy.
In addition, planning papers said that the threat of new fruit fly SWD means growers must take a multifaceted approach to crop protection, and said greenhouses play an important role within this.
“The increased production of high quality fruit will further help improve the efficiency and the profitability of the farm business and the positive contribution the farm business makes to the local economy, both in terms of employment and adding value to the local economy,” the documentsstated. “The proposed storage building and associated water management scheme are an essential part of the development proposal.”
Planners also estimated that to produce the same quantity of fruit under conventional polytunnels would require approximately 20 ha of conventional polytunnels compared to the 11.94 ha of Cravo greenhouses as proposed.
“Without these types of structures the applicant will not be able to meet market and customer requirements for high quality and high yield fruit supply. As a consequence the applicant would be very likely to lose the contract to supply supermarkets, resulting is a loss to the local economy," they stated.
As well as statements from Historic England that confirm the proposed development does not significantly affect the visual landscape, the support documents also stated that G Charlton and Sons is a long-established family farming business that has been operating in the Maidstone area for many years.