‘Exciting’ plans for Colgate farm supported on appeal

JPCT 170215 S15070894x Aquaponics UK has had a planning application for a new innovative farm granted on appeal 'Nick Henderson and Charlie Price at Blindman's Wood in Colgate -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150217-095146001
JPCT 170215 S15070894x Aquaponics UK has had a planning application for a new innovative farm granted on appeal 'Nick Henderson and Charlie Price at Blindman's Wood in Colgate -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150217-095146001

A company’s proposals build a new farm, which were dismissed as ‘pseudoscience’ at a planning meeting have been granted on appeal.

Aquaponics UK’s plans to build a new farm at Blindman’s Wood in Colgate were turned down by the council’s development control committee last August.

The company’s methods use less land than traditional farming, but the yield is five to ten times more. It will produce 40-48 tonnes of vegetables and salad, 650kg mushrooms as well as fish, crustaceans and poultry.

Charlie Price of Aquaponics UK said: “It’s really exciting that we can finally do it. It’s high quality fresh food for local people.

“The site is 16 acres. One half of it, we are not doing anything with. A third of acre will be a greenhouse. We are redeveloping two derelict barns to house the water based part.

“Then over six acres will be a wild flower meadow and replanting the hedge with edible species. The third of an acre will produce as much food as traditional farming would produce from the rest of the site.”

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 meaning it needs little human intervention.

The greenhouse will be powered through solar panels.

Mr Price said: “It’s all pretty much our idea. All the parts of this are existing methods, but it’s our idea to combine them.

“It produces a variety of crops in a small area locally rather than one site to produce lots of one thing and sending it halfway round the world.”

Last summer, the company lost committee support due to a complementary forestry scheme on the site producing wood chippings from the woodland surrounding the farm.

Objectors had concerns about potential increased traffic.

Charlie said: “We went into too much depth. We wrote a 60-page plan for the site with every kind of test possible.

“We swamped them with information. We did a survey and the traffic was tractors and trailers.

“We (as a nation) are so detached from our farmland, people are complaining about tractors and trailers going on the farms to provide food.

“We are there now, but it’s been quite a frustrating battle that shouldn’t have been there.

“The planning officer supported it, but they (councillors) went against it on reasons and grounds not based on policy.”

Last August Horsham District Council refused permission for the Aquaponics UK proposals on road safety grounds. Residents had fears about increased HGV traffic. Councillors had a range of reasons for objecting.

Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) said: “The whole thing is just barmy - pseudoscience.”

Duncan England (Con, Nuthurst) feared the wood-chipping business could easily expand once it was approved.

Jim Rae (Ind, Holbrook East) disagreed. He said: “If we refuse this then we have gone back on a pledge to create employment in the countryside.”