Residents win battle over plans for mushroom farm expansion

VICTORIOUS campaigners are celebrating after controversial plans for a multi-million pound expansion of a mushroom farm have finally been scrapped, following a battle that has raged on for years.

Yesterday, it emerged planning inspector Graham Dudley has dismissed an appeal by Greyfriars UK, based at Wath, near Ripon, after its plans to build a £4.7m 100m by 70m growing shed were heard at a four-day planning inquiry earlier this year.

Mr Dudley has also dismissed appeals by both Harrogate Borough Council and Greyfriars against costs incurred through the long-running planning battle. A Greyfriars spokesman told the Yorkshire Post the costs were “substantial”, while the Council yesterday was not able to disclose the exact bill it faces.

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The company now plans to build the growing shed at a site near Market Weighton, where it claims to have already secured planning permission.

Members of an action group Wath Against Mushrooms (WAM), are celebrating the end of the drawn out battle.

A WAM spokesman said: “This is fantastic news and shows what can be achieved when local residents come together to stop their rural community being devastated by development on an industrial scale. People from Wath, Melmerby and the surrounding district who spoke at the inquiry put forward powerful arguments against Greyfriars’ plans and I am delighted their views have been taken into account.

“Local villages suffer from problems caused by lorries from across Europe travelling to and from the current Greyfriars sites all day every day.

“This decision should stop the number increasing.”

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He added: “It also means that an historically important and ancient grass field will not disappear for ever under concrete.

“Greyfriars has now appealed three times against the local authority’s refusal to grant it planning permission to expand and failed each time. “All along this has been a David versus Goliath struggle as Wath is a small village and Greyfriars’ a powerful pan-European food giant. Once again, David has won.”

Greyfriars supplies Morrisons, Netto and Booths with mushrooms and other foodstuffs, including sweetcorn and butternut squash. The company wanted to develop the new 73,300 sq ft building with 12 growing rooms to produce an extra 150,000lb of mushrooms every week.

The firm currently ships in an estimated 1,000 lorry loads of mushrooms from Poland each year.

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They had claimed that the new £4.7m growing shed would give the local economy a significant boost. It had been argued the expansion would create 60 new jobs which would lead to the best part of £1m being pumped into the local economy.

The company also argued that the proposed expansion would have been environmentally beneficial, claiming there would be 3,000 fewer tonnes of carbon emissions being generated and the traffic situation around the site would improve for residents

Charles Merson, operations director, said: “We saw the writing was on the wall for this a couple of years ago and pursued a parallel planning application in Market Weighton.

“It is disappointing for us, but we are moving on.” He added: “In terms of jobs and money spent, this would have been of real benefit to the area.

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“The wage bill would have been £1m a year, money that would have been spent in Ripon and on the local economy.

“From our point of view it is going to be business as normal now.”

Earlier this summer, a planning inspector dismissed an appeal by Greyfriars against plans to build three additional poly tunnels at the site.

The planning inquiry into the growing shed took place at Harrogate Borough Council in September.