A QUESTION mark hangs over Herefordshire Council's policy on polytunnels following a landmark ruling in the High Court.

A company supplying strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants to Waitrose supermarkets failed in a legal challenge to keep Spanish polytunnels on land near Godalming in Surrey.

Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that polytunnels and caravans on 470-acre Tuesley Farm - in the green belt and an area of Great Landscape Value - needed planning permission.

The judge upheld enforcement notices served by Waverley Borough Council and supported by a planning inspector calling for tunnels on the farm to be removed.

Herefordshire anti-polytunnel campaigners at the court joined in celebrations.

"This was a victory for common sense," said Edward Kelly, of Hoarwithy, spokesman for the Campaign for Polytunnel Control.

Arrow Valley Residents' Association, which opposes the Brierley fruit farm development, near Leominster, called on Herefordshire Council to abandon "its much discredited polytunnel code and fall into step with the High Court ruling".

The council said it welcomed judicial guidance in an "unclear" area. Spokesman Robert Blower said: "We believe it was right to maintain our voluntary code and protect council taxpayers' money by not seeking itself to create a precedent.

"We have requested a full transcript from the High Court and will be assessing the full implications for Herefordshire."

Russell Griffin, spokesman for strawberry king John Davies, who runs Herefordshire's S & A fruit empire, described the decision as "disappointing" but added: "It's a setback rather than a defeat. There is no reason why a decision taken in Surrey should affect decisions elsewhere.

"Our circumstances in Herefordshire differ as we have a Code of Practice."

Mike Dinnick, of South Herefordshire Growers Association, said: "We are digesting the implications. This is certainly a negative for the industry. Everyone is looking to the government for some sort of policy decision."

Yesterday (Wednesday) an application to retain polytunnels at Kings Caple in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was withdrawn hours before councillors were to debate the issue.