Calls for council to grow trees and crops fails at first hurdle

Stephen Briggs of Whitehall Farm is growing wheat within an apple orchard to establish the UK'’s lar

East Suffolk Council said it did not have enough land and needed to concentrate on its core services - Credit: Friends of the Earth

Disappointment has been voiced after moves to create an agroforestry pilot project growing both trees and small crops in East Suffolk were rejected.

The suggestion aimed to provide short-term income and increased biodiversity.

A motion was put to East Suffolk Council on Wednesday requesting that a business case be put together for a pilot scheme that would see the authority using a parcel of its land to grow both trees and crops at the same time.

Melton Green councillor Rachel Smith-Lyte, who put forward the idea, said it would see the trees protected while small scale crops that could be food, flowers or gardening materials are grown to generate a small income.

Land off Brook Farm Road in Saxmundham had been identified as an ideal pilot opportunity, according to the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group.

However, the proposals were rejected by 26-14 votes, amid fears there was not enough suitable land.

Ms Smith-Lyte said: “Nature and agriculture need to work together and an agroforestry pilot would have gone a long way towards showing land can be used for long-term tree planting and food production and still be profitable, as well as providing a fantastic community supported agriculture opportunity in the locality.

Rachel Smith-Lyte said East Suffolk Council's efforts would be a legacy for generations to come. Pic

Councillor Rachel Smith-Lyte was disappointed at the council's response - Credit: Archant

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“I’m obviously disappointed that the Conservative group refused to work with us on this. East Suffolk Council needs to stay ahead of the curve on the climate and ecological emergency and plan for the long term resilience of which sustainable food production is an important part and we are failing to do that.”

Examples already in the district were highlighted, such as Maple Farm in Kelsale and Wakelyns in Fressingfield.

James Mallinder, Conservative cabinet member for the environment at East Suffolk Council. Picture: E

James Mallinder, Conservative cabinet member for the environment at East Suffolk Council. Picture: EAST SUFFOLK COUNCIL - Credit: East Suffolk Council

James Mallinder, Conservative cabinet member for the environment, said: “East Suffolk owns very little land, and in fact, the land that we do own is used as community space such as for sports, heaths and commons which are rich in biodiversity, and of course our Pardon the Weeds campaign.

“Also, we are not farmers, only a district council so it’s really important we concentrate on our core services, delivering value for money, supporting our core services and putting all these through the prism of the environment.”

Cllr Mallinder suggested the idea would be more appropriate for the county council, which is the third biggest landowner in Suffolk.

Peter Byatt, from the Labour group, said he couldn’t see large areas of land to roll it out to if successful, but said “that doesn’t mean we can’t at least pilot it and see where it goes”.

It is not yet clear if the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group plans to put forward a similar suggestion to the county council with its members there.