A company, which has Government backing for its innovative farming methods, has had its plans to expand to the Horsham district rejected.
Aquaponics UK hoped to create ten jobs at a new farm at Blindman’s Wood, Grouse Road in Colgate.
The company’s farming method is hailed as an environmentally friendly food production system, which has worldwide support. It was instead described as ‘pseudoscience’ at last week‘s Horsham District Council Development Control North Committee meeting.
The application was recommend for approval, however, the company lost committee support due to a wood chipping and log drying plant it wanted to build near the aquaponics plant.
Objector John Starmer told the committee: “The application itself is in fact for the industrial processing of logs for conversion into fuel for use in wood burning boilers.
“This process involves large plant equipment as well as multiple lorry movements and is being presented to us under the disguise of an eco, green, hydroponics, sustainable banner.”
Local member Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate) told the committee when Aquaponics UK first brought the idea to her, she was supportive. It was the HGV traffic resulting from the wood-chipping plant that concerned her.
She said: “I’m disappointed. The aquaponics did look exciting. As far as the road network is concerned, it really is a no-no.”
West Sussex Highways recommended objection and refusal of the application. Others shared that concern.
In aquaponics, crops are grown in water fed by nutrients from fish excretion. Fish are kept in tanks and the water is circulated to feed the plants.
Supporters say it barely needs any human intervention, the yield is five to ten times that of traditional farming and it uses less land.
The planning report stated once the farm was fully operational it could produce 40-48 tonnes of vegetables, 6.5-8 tonnes of fish and crustaceans and 650kg of mushrooms each year.
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) criticised that side of the application. He said: “The whole thing is just barmy - pseudoscience.”
Duncan England (Con, Nuthurst) had concerns the wood-chipping business could easily expand once it was approved.
Jim Rae (Con, Holbrook East) disagreed with his colleagues.
He said: “If we refuse this then we have gone back on a pledge to create employment in the countryside.”
Members voted to refuse permission on road safety grounds.
Applicant Charlie Price, of Aquaponics UK, said: “This is the first time we have had opposition of this kind. It seems no one read the proposals.
“We have support from the highest echelons of Government, but the council misunderstands it.
“Everyone in the world seems to embrace us, but Horsham does not.”
The committee decision brought reaction from BBC Springwatch presenter Kate Humble, who has visited a farm run by Aquaponics UK in Wales. She said: “This is a brave and brilliant idea, backed by extensive research and scientific trialling, and I really believe it will have a hugely positive impact both locally and nationally.”
Aquaponics UK said it will be appealing the decision.