More than 100,000-sq-m of polytunnels to grow salad and fruit could be built in Northamptonshire countryside

'Vertical hydroponics farm' would create around 30 jobs but would have 'very harmful effect' on rural setting, says council officer

By Jack Duggan
Monday, 9th August 2021, 4:48 pm
Updated Monday, 9th August 2021, 4:50 pm

A 'vertical hydroponics farm' with more than 100,000-sq-metres of plastic tunnels to grow salad and fruit could be built in the Northamptonshire countryside.

Courteenhall Estate wants to diversify its farm with 76 polytunnels on 15.7-hectares of agricultural land between Courteenhall and the M1.

West Northamptonshire Council's strategic planning committee has been recommended to approve the scheme by a planning officer ahead of a meeting on Monday (August 16).

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Inside a polytunnel used for farming in Rochester, Kent. Photo: Getty Images

"It is considered that the general over-arching policy support for farm diversification slightly outweigh the harms to the character and appearance of the site and landscape, which are already mitigated by the site’s specific context and surrounding topography and woodland - and can be further mitigated through landscape management," the officer's report states.

Vertical hydrophonic farming involves growing crops upwards on columns without soil inside polytunnels, which minimises the use of pesticides and reduces overall water usage.

Courteenhall Estate wants to convert part of its land for this with 103,607-sq-metres of polytunnels, measuring 8.8-metres wide and seven-metres tall, as well as tanks for the water system.

A series of water recovery basins would be formed to take the run-off from the roofs which can also be used for the irrigation of the plants.

A 6,519sqm area of hardstanding is required for staff and HGV parking and access for loading produce, with underground drainage tanks for drainage underneath.

The access road, which currently serves East Lodge, would be extended and three passing bays would be added.

The officer's report says the scheme will create approximately 30 full-time jobs and increase the quantity and quality of produce, in turn reducing food miles.

However 'the monolithic scale and mass of the structures will clearly have a very harmful effect on the site’s rural setting', it adds.

No objections have been raised - Courteenhall Parish Council commented 'it is good to see a unproductive area brought into production, and provide new jobs and investment'.