Campaigners hail mushroom farm victory

Village campaigners have hailed victory after a mushroom farm was forced to abandon plans for a multi-million pound expansion near their homes.

Greyfriars UK will not be allowed to build a new mushroom growing shed on its site at New Mill House, near Wath, after a planning inspector dismissed their appeal and ended a two-year-long battle over the plans.

A spokesman for action group Wath Against Mushrooms (WAM) said: “Greyfriars has now appealed three times against the local authority’s refusal to grant it planning permission to expand and failed each time.

“All along this has been a David versus Goliath struggle as Wath is a small village and Greyfriars a powerful pan-European food giant. Once again, David has won.”

However, campaigners are now vowing to continue their fight against lorries passing through Melmerby and Wath on the way to the Greyfriars site.

Sir James and Lady Halina Graham, part-owners of the neighbouring Norton Conyers estate, were among those who opposed the expansion proposals.

“The next stage of the campaign is to ensure that Greyfriars is not permitted to continue ‘business as normal’, following dismissal of their appeal, particularly in relation to the continuation of the HGV levels which the inspector concluded were already unacceptable,” Lady Graham said.

“We will continue lobbying the council to ensure that there are major improvements on this front, so that the local villages and countryside are at long last freed from the blight of the past eight years.”

Greyfriars launched the appeal after their application to build a large mushroom growing shed and staff building was turned down by Harrogate Borough Council planners in June.

A planning inquiry then heard evidence on the development’s possible effects on the countryside around Wath and nearby Norton Conyers house and park, as well as road safety, sustainability and bio-diversity.

Planning inspector Graham Dudley accepted Greyfriars’ argument that the new shed would reduce the number of lorries on the lanes around Wath, as the company would pack more mushrooms grown on site and transport fewer loads in.

He also accepted the development would create jobs and boost the local economy, but decided those benefits were outweighed by “unacceptable harm” to the countryside.

Greyfriars operations director Charles Merson said the company was disappointed but not surprised with the decision.

The company has already been granted planning consent for a similar project near Market Weighton, he saidm meaning the Wath site will continue to operate and is likely to pack mushrooms grown at Market Weighton.

Mr Merson added: “We are disappointed for the economy of Ripon – because the wages that would have flowed into it will now go into Goole – and for the residents of Wath as we had a solution to their transport problems by re-routing lorries.”

However, the WAM spokesperson has hailed the planning decision as a victory for community action.

He said: “This is fantastic news and shows what can be achieved when local residents come together to stop their rural community being devastated by development on an industrial scale.

“People from Wath, Melmerby and the surrounding district who spoke at the inquiry put forward powerful arguments against Greyfriars’ plans and I am delighted their views have been taken into account.”

“Local villages suffer from problems caused by lorries from across Europe travelling to and from the current Greyfriars’ sites 24/7.

“This decision should stop the number increasing and also means that an historically important and ancient grass field will not disappear for ever under concrete.”

The planning inspector turned down requests from both the council and Greyfriars to claim costs incurred in the long-running planning battle.

The inquiry took place at Harrogate Borough Council offices in September, three months after another Planning Inspector dismissed a Greyfriars appeal to build three polytunnels at New Mill House.