A controversial plan by a Herefordshire soft fruit farm to cover a further 9.5 hectares in polytunnels and install other infrastructure has been given the go-ahead at the second attempt.

The proposal by S&A Produce of Marden for its Drakeley Farm site drew 28 objections and 19 letters of support. A previous larger proposal at the farm was withdrawn last April after drawing 92 objections.

Recommending Herefordshire Council’s planning committee now approve the revised scheme, planning officer Rebecca Jenman said that although it would cause “moderate” visual harm to the area, “this is outweighed by the social, economic and environmental benefits”.


Marden parish councillor Rod Lees claimed local roads “were not designed to support current vehicles, let alone additional traffic” and questioned the validity of a traffic survey submitted with the application.

Flooding in the area “has also got worse” since existing year-round polytunnels were installed at the farm, he added, while the impact on public rights of way “will spoil parishioners’ and visitors’ enjoyment”.

Local resident Clare Suart, “speaking for local objectors”, said: “This is industrial agriculture growing a luxury crop on over nine hectares of ‘best and most versatile’ farmland.”


There is “always” noise from the existing polytunnels, which vibrate in the wind, while machinery can be in use from 5.30am and can run all weekend, she added.

But S&A’s operations director Jim White said extending the farm would support the firm’s “groundbreaking” crop research, development and propagation business, “which in 2024 will supply 50 million plants to 95 European growers”.

The firm already employs 150 full-time staff, “providing premium jobs to the Herefordshire economy”, he said, adding the new proposal represented £5 million worth of further investment in the county.

Coun Stef Simmons of the committee said she “would rather not see the intensification of the countryside”, but acknowledged the “successful business supports many people in that area”.

But backing the plan, Coun John Stone said soft fruit “is one of Herefordshire’s great success stories, with all the employment and other benefits”.

The proposal to approve was passed with only Coun Simmons abstaining.