How farmers and fruit pickers could help with Leeds' climate emergency, according to councillors

Farmers across the UK are struggling to recruit fruit pickers.
Farmers across the UK are struggling to recruit fruit pickers.
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A farming family has been praised for accommodating seasonal fruit pickers on their property, because councillors believe it could help cut Leeds' carbon emissions.

Sturton Grange Farm in Micklefield, which is run by the Makin family, has been granted planning permission to continue putting up their migrant workforce in 84 caravans on site, as they have done since 2009.

Sturton Grange Farm in Micklefield.

Sturton Grange Farm in Micklefield.

The owners have had to apply to Leeds City Council to renew the permission every three years since, but the local authority has now given them a six year extension.

Councillors say that having the workers on the site, which includes a social centre and a shop they can use, should be welcomed as it cuts carbon emissions linked to transport.

They believe that could be crucial in helping Leeds fulfil its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

At a plans panel meeting on Thursday, it was said that the workforce is predominantly from the EU, though some have come from further afield lately because of recruitment problems.

Council planning officer David Jones said: "There have been difficulties in employing local people to do this work, which is something that's felt not only here but up and down the country.

"This is the situation this farmer's found themselves in, so they've taken the bull by the horns as it were, and provided the accommodation themselves."

Council officers had cautioned that the caravans do technically constitute "inappropriate" development on greenbelt land, but added that the "special circumstances" meant the application should be approved.

Councillors were unanimous in their support of the farm.

Conservative Jackie Shemilt said: "I'm really pleased we're looking to renew this. I know there's a problem with finding the workers.

"But I think in light of the climate emergency if we've got a location where you can grow your own stuff with minimal transportation costs, when we should what we can to help.

"And I wish him the best of luck, because it's difficult finding the workers."

Coun Ryan Stephenson agreed, saying: "The biggest challenge for farmers is planning for the future and having to quickly diversify in the face of change.

"If we are to change to an extension of six years or more, then that allows him to plan for the future of his business."

Local Democracy Reporting Service