The head of a large Herefordshire fruit grower has struggled to win round locals to his plans to expand operations on their doorstep.

Haygrove founder and chairman Angus Davison said that by coming to a public meeting in Huntington, near Kington, this week, he was “entering the lion’s den”.

But he stressed: “We have no desire to create problems for anyone.”

The Ledbury-based company is seeking planning permission for 6.5 hectares of new fruit-growing polytunnels on fields at its site by the Welsh border, with 18 static caravans for pickers to be placed between them.

“We have growing here for 23 years – in fact, we have already taken polytunnels off four fields, so the total covered area will still be smaller than before,” Mr Davison explained.

The new tunnels would cover newly planted late-fruiting cherries and organic blueberries, he said.

“We pump water from the brook but cherry trees with their deep roots don’t need as much water as soft fruit.”

Meanwhile, introducing static caravans between the covered fields “aims to be more efficient from a transport and environmental point of view” than the current need to bring workers the hour-and-a-half from Ledbury by double-decker bus, he said.


The company takes on over 1,000 seasonal workers each year, but finding enough labour “is our biggest problem”, Mr Davison said.

“We had 150 Ukrainians last year, and now the men can’t come. But we are registered as a host for refugees.”

The company tried interviewing 2,000 British workers during lockdown, he said.

“We employed 200, of which 60 didn’t last the first week, and only 30 stayed to the end of the season.”

Parish council chairman Barry James said the council “strongly objected” to the plan.

“Further development of this sort will have a negative visual impact on this beautiful part of the country, and could impact on the aquatic life in the Gladestry brook,” he said.

With six workers in each, the caravans “would more than double the population of Huntington, and mean more traffic and pedestrians in our narrow lanes”, he said.

Fellow councillor Geoffrey Steel said caravans and a sewage system had already been put in at the farm, and added that “you couldn’t fail to notice” the proposed new tunnels from local vantage points.

“People come here because it’s unspoiled,” he said.

Among the 40 of so locals at the meeting, one drew attention to the claim in Haygrove’s recruitment brochure that “our summer barbecues and parties are legendary – we work hard and we play hard!”, and asked what this would mean in terms of noise.

Mr Davison said: “The party schedule would be once a month. We would ring round first. We don’t want our workers disturbing the neighbours.”

And he said that environmental measures were part of the “triple bottom line” by which Haygrove evaluates its performance.

Challenged on the claim in the application that polytunnels “sit lightly in the landscape”, Mr Davison said this was “an annoying phrase used by our planning consultants”, but said they would only be covered for part of the year.

A lone voice in their favour, bed-and-breakfast owner Sandra Jones said: “I can’t see how more fields of polytunnels would prevent people coming. Those who stay with me are delighted to know what’s growing in them.

“It’s better to grow fruit in our own country than in Africa. And you can’t make a living out of sheep or cattle.”

Mr Davison said that in light of the views expressed, “we will make changes to the application, but I won’t commit tonight to which ones.”

And he undertook not to install any more caravans in the meantime.