Essex: Go-ahead given for major expansion of glasshouses for salad crops in Lea Valley at Nazeing

Meurig Raymond

Meurig Raymond - Credit: Simon Hadley

Approval for a major expansion of glasshouses in Essex’s Lea Valley will provide a welcome boost for British-grown salad crops, farmers’ leaders say.

the NFU said today (Tuesday 20 May).

Valley Grown Nurseries has received planning permission to construct 21 acres of glasshouses to grow tomatoes and peppers in Nazeing, near Harlow, the largest expansion in the Lea Valley for more than 50 years.

The scheme will generate more than 40 jobs and includes a renewable energy plant and the creation of water storage for recycling, as well as improved habitat for wildlife.

The application was supported by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), including help from its Legal Assistance Scheme. It was also backed by NFU specialist branch Lea Valley Growers and the Lee Valley Food Task Force.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “This decision is excellent news for British growers, British consumers and the British economy.

“Self-sufficiency in the horticultural industry has fallen for a number of years and we now import four out of every five tomatoes eaten in this country - at a time when the public are actively seeking to buy quality British produce.

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“There is tremendous scope to grow more salad crops to meet public demand, but modern agriculture and horticulture require modern buildings and modern facilities.

“I’m delighted that the planners have recognised this and taken this decision to back British farming.”

Lea Valley Growers secretary Lee Stiles said the Lea Valley had the highest concentration of glasshouse in the world in the 1950s but the growing area had fallen by 80 per cent since the 1960s.

“The horticultural industry in the Lea Valley still directly employs more than 1000 people and produces cucumbers and peppers with a retail value of £1 billion to the UK economy. Schemes like this will help ensure it has a viable future,” he said.

“We have a great opportunity to grow more local food, reduce food imports and create local jobs through glasshouse expansion in the Lea Valley.”

Valley Grown Nurseries’ planning application was approved by Epping Forest District Council.

In 2012, the NFU’s Catalyst for Change report revealed that, since 2000, cucumber self-sufficiency had fallen by a quarter to just 30% and tomatoes had fallen 10% to just 19%.