A town council, two parish councils, and 24 residents have opposed plans for the scheme in open countryside south of Woodmansey village hall. It involves a 14-meter high unit, measuring 7,800 square meters, where produce would be grown in stacks.
Ward councilor Kerri Harold said residents were worried about the impact on “beautiful Long Lane and surrounding countryside” and the unit’s “size and scale.” “We feel small units would be acceptable, but large-scale vertical farming is way beyond anything we could have imagined,” she said. However, the agent for developer Key Growing Ltd told councilors, “technology has moved on,” and growing crops indoors using LED lights was more environmentally friendly than trucking them in from southern Europe.
Committee member Coun Geraldine Mathieson was concerned approval could open the floodgates for similar applications. She said it’d be better to refuse the plans and have them go to appeal for an inspector to decide, as the technology is so new there have been no legal rulings on whether it is an “agricultural” use.
Coun Denis Healy said: “Is this the right place for effectively a factory? I don’t think it is.” But others supported the idea, including Coun Charlie Dewhirst, who said farmers already put up very large sheds, and this would “clearly be a primary production site for food.” And Coun Gary McMaster said: “We need to think outside the box when we factor in food security and global issues.”
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