UPDATE: Cutting edge crop research plan at Chichester debated

Tim Gleeson, company secretary at Bartholomews
Tim Gleeson, company secretary at Bartholomews

A plan that could put a Chichester based agricultural food company at the cutting edge of food production across Europe was debated by councillors this morning (Wednesday, August 17).

Bartholomew’s Agrifood, a long established family firm, wants to move the bulk of its business from its Bognor Road site to just off the Drayton roundabout, along the A259 at Merston, where it plans to build a crop research centre.

The company says state-of-the-art technology would give customers the most up to date information and services on all new varieties of crops. It would help UK farming by using more environmentally sustainable farming methods.

But Chichester District Council planners, on balance, recommended rejecting the project, concluding the impact of the large building on the rural landscape outweighed the benefits.

Speaking before yesterday’s planning committee meeting, company secretary Tim Gleeson said: “We are a long established business in the area and we want to stay in the area, but we can’t expand on our current site and we hope the economic benefits of our plan will be realised by the members of the committee.

“This will put us at the cutting edge of food production and it is very important, not just for the district but also for the wider region.”

The application was passionately supported by Chichester West councillor Richard Plowman, who argued the facility needed to be in a rural location because of the nature of the operation.

Others expressed concern that the 21 metre-high building – required because of the complex machinery proposed – would have a ‘significant’ impact on the character of the area.

After a balanced debate, councillors voted to defer the plans for negotiation over improvements to screening and the potential for repositioning the building.

The proposal is part of a large-scale plan releasing part of the current Bartholomew’s site for housing.

Permission has already been granted for 51 houses and further permission looks set for another 57 once developers’ contributions have been agreed. But Mr Gleeson said the housing land could not be released until Bartholomew’s had permission for its expansion plans.

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