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Appeal A: T/APP/X98/L3815/003017/P6 Brinkman Brothers Ltd against Chichester District Council 15th June 1999

Click here to view Brinkman Appeal in full.

On the 25th Feb 2002 we discovered the buried Brinkman decision. we then forwarded this to Hereford planning with the request for enforcement the removal of polytunnels 26th Feb 2002

From this decision without a shadow of doubt:

Furthermore we asked the council:


Statements made by the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in response to the appeal brought by Brinkman Brothers Ltd against Chichester District Council 15th June 1999.

The appeal relates to 6 hectares of strawberries being grown in Spanish tunnels

 *There has been a breach of planning control causing substantial visual harm in the AONB

*The Councils decision to take enforcement action was fully justified to protect the landscape within the AONB

 *The balance between conservation and development will be firmly in favour of conservation within AONB’s

 *Large-scale buildings will not normally be allowed in areas of high quality landscape

 *The primary objective of designation of AONB’s conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape.  In general policies and development control decisions affecting AONB’s should favour conservation

 *The polytunnels have massive scale which dwarf other agricultural /horticultural building in the area.

*In views from the public footpaths which skirt the appeal site, the polytunnels would in my opinion, be dominant and extremely bulky features obstructing longer views in this area of attractive countryside

*There is no doubt in my mind that the polytunnels cause considerable visual harm in this sensitive location within the AONB. There is therefore a clear conflict with the primary policy objective of protecting the landscape

 *I consider that the visual impact of these polytunnels goes beyond what might be reasonably be expected

 *The primary objectives in AONB’s is protection of the landscape a factor to which I attach more weight than maximising the benefits of the local climate for growing strawberries

 *I have considerable sympathy for the appellant’s plight but against that I have to set the substantial visual harm being caused to the AONB. On balance I attach more weight to the need to bring the visual harm to an end

A comparison of sites between Bosham, Chichester
and Kings Caple and Walford, Herefordshire
All sites are within an AONB
AONB’s share equal status with National Parks in terms of scenic beauty and landscape protection “

Kings Caple total of land covered with ground polythene is 29.27 Hectares/ 72acres  
The current area with polytunnels is
14.5 hectares.

Bosham Chichester site was 6 hectares judged detrimental to the AONB
Kings Caple is already TWO AND A HALF times the size of Chichester
When the 72 acres are covered with tunnels it will be FIVE times larger

Bosham was in flat landscape Kings Caple is in undulating valley
In the village of Hoarwithy many of the houses look directly on to and over these tunnels. There is no doubt that this has destroyed the views for the many who considered this aspect to be the crucial factor of why they chose to live in an AONB. (There is continuous burning and footpaths diverted around plastic) Because of undulating landscape the site is prominent and can be seen miles away

Walford 150 acres site, TEN` TIMES LARGER than Chichester is also expanding. A major blight off the A 40 Ross to Monmouth. The Spires of St Mary’s’, Ross on Wye now dominated by fields of plastic, other tourist sites, one & half miles to the south lies Goodrich Castle, Chase Wood. to the east, Symonds Yat four miles, A continuous blight throughout the year, year upon year, development against the ethos of the AONB. Hereford planning would have you believe these polytunnels are “temporary” they are not.

.In connection with Brinkman appeal, letters had been submitted from South Herefordshire District Council. It is reasonable to assume that the council was fully informed of the outcome of this ruling, if not then by magazine, periodical and circular. Despite enquiries by individual’s, Parish Councils and others, notably Paul Keetch M.P. Hereford Council appear to have withheld this information and decided not to enforce this planning appeal decision.

If the council had enforced this appeal decision one of the most beautiful sites in the wye valley would not have been destroyed by this dreadful blight (Pennoxstone Kings Caple). Apparently the authorities at Chichester have a greater appreciation of their landscape and the willingness to take action to conserve. Herefordshire Council even when court rulings exists have not used it to protect our finest landscapes.

We were unaware that Hereford council were concealing the Brinkman decision and believed that they had indeed had no legal means by which to control polytunnels

Skerrit Case Law

Copy end of file

Six months earlier Hereford planning had been informed that there was indeed a way forward to control polytunnels due to the case of” Skerrits of Nottingham Ltd v. Secretary of State for the Environment” March 22 2000. This case overturns previous laws on the subject of “temporary” structures and, on the face of it, was the blue print for introducing controls over polytunnels

The important aspect of this case is that it underpins the arguements used in the Brinkman decision.
Brinkman Brothers were to lodge a further appeal against the Chichester decision, however they abandoned this due to the Skerrit ruling.

Due to no action being taken in response to our request for enforement by the council a complaint was lodged with the Ombusman on grounds of "maladministration" and "injustice"

To support our case we provided copy of correspondence with the council, twenty two letters over a period of four years

30th Jan 2002 forwarded to Julie Preston Chief of Planning Services (draft copy)  "This information was compiled to address the Ombudsman for Herefordshire Council, as a result of no action being taken to protect our landscape“ (Skerrit case law enclosed)

21st Feb 2002 to Julie Preston, telephone message In response to news paper article “Painter Protests at Plague of Polytunnels” a TV report was due for transmission on Midland's ITV Central News, dealing specifically with the problems created by Neil Cockburn at Pennoxstone Court King Caple by his polytunnel strawberry business.

20th Feb 2002 article by Mr Alan Poole, Council Chief development Control Officer, Western Daily Press ”If there were legal rulings on the matter the council would have to look again at whether it needed to alter its policy”. This is a puzzling statement considering that the Skerrits And Brinkman rulings are and had been in current circulation. There is legal ruling on this matter. Why has it not been enforced?

15th March 1999 letter from K.Matthews Enforcement Officer ”Polythene Tunnels”

5th May 1999, letter from L.Hill, Assistant Enforcement Officer “Polythene Tunnels at Pennoxstone Kings Caple Herefordshire”

14th May 1999, letter from L.Hill “Polythene Tunnels at Pennoxstone"

5th Dec 2000 from Miss V.Reynolds, Herefordshire Council's Forward Planning Officer, to Paul Keetch MP
“Past case law has considered the “temporary “ nature of polytunnels. The manner of their affixation to the ground has proved a determining factor."
There is no reference to Brinkman ruling.


6th Dec 2000 from Ian Slater, Head of Planning Services, Herefordshire District Council to Paul Keetch MP
“Responses to polytunnels are essentially subjective....If however the regulations were to be changed I would suggest that an intervention was confined to substantial tunnels –e.g. of greater than 2m high and fully enclosed”. The impracticality of this proposal can be discussed. The more serious matter is;
Paul Keetch MP had rasied this issue with Ian Slater. Ian Slater had the legal resources of Herefordshire Council at his disposal yet there is no reference to the Brinkman Ruling. The concern of our MP is met with discmissive response, to object o fifty acres / forty miles end to end of polytunnel in an AONB is to be "essentially subjective".

Ian Slater the former Head of Hereford Planning might consider polytunnels “essentially subjective” but we would not, nor would it seem the majority of people who see them daily, nor would those people who have spent their professional lives with aesthetic evaluation nor did the appeal court at Chichester.

Whilst it is appreciated at least a degree of involvement, how does this proposal of regulating the height of a tunnel work, 2m high or 2.4m high it matters little in undulating landscape? This is not Norfolk”.

Further more Ian Slater proceeds in like fashion” I would not want us to be debating the merits of strawberry cloches”
Escaping planning consents means that there is no platform to challenge flippant remark and half baked notions.


12th April 2000 from Mrs L Hill, Enforcement Officer, Planning Services
Polythene Tunnels at Pennoxstone Kings Caple Herefordshire
Further to your letter of 28th March I confirm that-

Herefordshire Council Planning Authority does not have powers to control the type of polythene tunnels being erected at Pennoxstone.
Herefordshire Council Planning Authority is not seeking to gain any such powers as the current controls are as laid down within the Town and Country Planning act 1991(as amended). It would be a matter for central government to undertake any revision of the Act.

Herefordshire Council did have Powers
Not only with reference to Brinkman but also to Skerrits case law (Skerrits of Nottingham Ltd v. Secretary of State for the Environment” March 22nd 2000 which overturns previous interpretations on the subject of “temporary” structures).

Additional letters concerned with polytunnels, noise from river pump and depletion of river resources

8th May 1999 and 28th June 1999, letters from Gareth Key, Technical Officer Pollution, Environment Health, Herefordshire Council

18th Feb 2000, letter from Nicola Hansell, Environmental agency “Pump and Polythene tunnel”

25th Feb 2000, J.C. Mosedale, Environment Agency, River House, St Mellons, Cardiff.

4th July 2001 (and subsequent visit in October 2001) from J.Warren-McCauley, Technical Officer, Environmental Health,” Noise from Irrigation Pump,”

Enforcement was not forthcoming and after 28 days we took our complaint to the Ombudsman.

9th March 2002, Simon Dereham telephoned me as rep on AONB JAC he requested map press release and information on this issue, which was to be raised 11th March..

AONB Office

An important aspect of the Brinkman decision is that the site is within an AONB.
It is reasonable to assume that AONB Offices talk to each other particularly on such an important issue.

If the AONB had operated and enforced this appeal decision, one of the most beautiful sites in the Wye Valley would not have been destroyed by this dreadful blight, nor would we have had to watch and stand helpless, whilst our houses were surrounded and our landscape lost.

We drew attention to the long record of correspondence sent over a period of two years without acknowledgement or response  in which video newspaper articles Parish council resolution and other documentation were enclosed.

7th March, Eventually we received a letter from Andrew Blake
I was Aware in 1998 of a forth coming Public Inquiry in Chichester”
He had never pursued to know the outcome

Nobody would say that the job of maintaining control over an AONB is an easy task with little or no powers in general. However, surely the first duty of an AONB officer is to protect the landscape. By taking no action then, this intrusive farming practice, has been effectively encouraged, as well as Pennoxstone, to name but one other, the polytunnel strawberry expansion south of Ross-on-Wye.

The use of polytunnels is hardly appropriate in the undulating landscape of the Wye Valley AONB and in the most sensitive area alongside the main geographical feature the river Wye itself, in open valley.

This issue had been raised because it was considered to be a serious intrusion and degrading of an AONB. It has been repeatedly raised with ever increasing alarm. One e-mail circular to enquire as to whether this was a problem in other AONB; s would have resulted in Chichester disclosing the “Brinkman” case.

It is hard to believe this did not happen.

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Extracts from
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty share equal status with National Parks in terms of scenic beauty and landscape protection.
It is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them for the future generations through a unique legal status, which can;
a. Stimulate special policies for controlling development
b. Encourage appropriate land management

The council have failed to implement legal ruling and have allowed polytunnels in the AONB”. Plastic sheet/ tunnel is seen as legitimate farming practice
There have been no special policies, indeed it has been worse, the council have failed to implement even the most rudimentary controls.
There has been no appropriate land management.

The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty
Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment.

Hereford council’s policy of “no planning consents required” means theoretically that all of the AONB its 326 sq km could be covered with plasticPart of planning practice is where there is one site there can be many more.The Inspector for the Secretary of State made eleven statements (referring to visual damage) why polytunnels should not be allowed in an AONBHereford planners appear Blind Deaf and Fishy, a claim born from an avalanche of complaints through out Herefordshire for years met with unnatural indifference.

The objectives are;
To protect conserve and enhance the natural beauty and amenity of the Wye Valley, including its physical, ecological and cultural landscape.


Development on vast scale is in the heart of the Wye Valley AONB, at Kings Caple alongside the main geographical feature in Herefordshire the river itself, in open valley and amidst historical buildings, the most sensitive location in an area of great landscape value, site of special scientific interest.
Previously Kings Caple, Hoarwithy and Sellack Churches, monuments to our cultural and historic past, once shone as beacons on the horizon; now this splendid panorama is desecrated, dominated with hideous polytunnels (see aerial photos) Neil Cockburn Says in his opinion these are not an eyesore, nevertheless he has not a single polytunnel or sheet of plastic in front of his own home Pennoxstone Court. He surrounds other peoples houses and destroys the main attribute for living here, the visual beauty.

The Wye was the first major river to be designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest along its entire length.
To promote the quiet informal enjoyment of the Wye Valley by the general public but only so far as is consistent with the first objective

There has been a long history of complaints to the Environmental Health with regard to the noise of irrigation pumps. As more tunnels are erected the crop deprived of rainfall has to be increasingly irrigated from the depleted River Wye resource
What effect the considerable rainwater “RUN OFF” is having both on the raising of the flood level and the erosive aspects on the flood plains has not been researched. I have asked for a response from the council because this issue has been raised a number of times at various meetings.

Generally to promote sustainable forms of economic and social development especially working with farmers and landowners to encourage land management which supports the objectives of the AONB

To my knowledge no visit or discussion has ever taken place with these growers.
The AONB Officer has said he is to talk with Mr Drummond in June 2002
This is six months after our formal request for enforcement at Kings Caple

Farming in the AONB still follows a traditional pattern of mixed arable and dairying plus fruit orchards in the fertile north and is an essential part of the landscapes value


Clearly many farmers need to diversify if they are to make a living but this is not traditional pattern of fruit orchards or strawberries under straw, essential to landscape value nor is it farming in any previous convention of the word this is third world factory enterprise in the midst of the most glorious English landscape.

What urgent provision of food crop warrants this destruction? Well apparently it is the need to grow a strawberry without a bumpy nose. The supermarket drives this insanity insisting on a grade “A” crop. Grown in the open a strawberry grower can achieve 50% grade” A” and expect to sell 75% of his crop. Under plastic however he can sell 80% so the destruction of our best landscape is for 5% increase of sale, profit for the few loss to the many. Funding from Brussels aids and abets this madness.

The supermarket presides over this despoliation of our landscape. Better to have vast swathes of plastic ugliness across Herefordshire’s finest asset its landscape than display on shelves strawberries with bumps, the result of natural elements.

I have a letter from Sainsburys which reads “We do purchase strawberries grown in polythene tunnels from the Wye valley,- I assure you we do pay close attention to the environmental impact of everything we do”

The role of the AONB staff includes
a. To advise the JAC on issues affecting the AONB
b. To forge productive partnerships with those who have an impact on the environment of the AONB

c. To bring home to people the value of the area’s unique environment and the significance of its AONB designation

This issue has been raised repeatedly with the AONB Office, over a period of years, together with documentation and yet it has never been on the agenda of the Joint Advisory Council. The only response was a telephone call following copy of Complaint to Ombudsman being forwarded by registered post

A group of Hoarwithy residents attended a “Come and have your say meeting” 14th May2002.  Andrew Blake agreed that documentation provided to the AONB would be displayed to illustrate this problem at future meetings. A further visit to a subsequent meeting at Ross revealed that this promise had been broken; there was again a bid to conceal this issue

The Wye Valley, one of the finest lowland landscapes in Britain
The Wye Valley Walk is one of the regions most heavily used recreational footpath routes.

Plastic litters the fields, shinning white in winter under the retreated strawberry plant, swathed in polytunnel the rest of the year with some respite for individual fields when the plastic not the hoops is removed. Plastic bags lie as ballast to these frames and plastic lies about blown by wind hanging from trees

Many of the high paths have prominent views and see this white sprawl for miles around, other paths run alongside the polytunnels. This is undesirable for those who live here and an eyesore memory for visitors.”

Footpath Officer for Hentland

(Now footpaths are being diverted around plastic sheet & polytunnels)


Within the AONB priority will be given to the conservation and protection of the landscape and development will not normally be allowed except where:
a. Proposals are for small-scale developments, which are essential to meet local needs. Such development should be within or immediately adjacent towns and villages and of high standards of design in sympathy with the architecture and landscape character of the area.

b. Proposals are for small scale recreational facilities or agricultural or forestry developments which are likely to have an adverse effect on the special landscape character of the AONBs or which are not compatible with the conservation aims of the AONBs will not normally be allowed

c. Exceptionally, development is in the national interest and there is no other site suitable for the particular purpose


The main workforce comes from eastern europe
Any financial gain is to a couple of landowners, is this local need?
Would not “green “ farming that employs more local workers be appropriate?
How is this development of benefit to the local population or the village environment?
How has this development any sympathy with the village architecture?
How is 29.27 hectares of polythene and polytunnels seen as small scale?
How is this agricultural development considered to have no adverse effects on the special landscape character of the AONB?How is this form of growing seen as vital to national interest?
Would it not be easier to move the grower out to his workforce?

Chichester believed that 6 hectares was detrimental to the AONB and took action to remove this in four months

Tourism is a major contributor to the rural economy. The AONB includes a number of picturesque riverside settlements.
The natural beauty lost will ultimately mean economic suicide for tourism
Hoarwithy was such a picturesque riverside hamlet.
Once proudly featured on the cover of the Hereford Planning Booklet 

Visitor management recommended 200 actions to enhance both the conservation value of the area and the quality of the visitor experience.The European Commission co funded a pilot project to build consensus between business and conservationists around their shared objective of protecting the natural beauty of the area for everyone to enjoy. This led to the publication of the AONB Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 1995
Has anybody read or drawn a relationship with this report and the polytunnel development?

Final note,

There could not be a more inappropriate place to have polytunnel development
t would be permissible in a flat already degraded landscape screened by trees.
Allowing polytunnels to be placed in an undulating landscape of great beauty and value with cultural & historical importance, a landscape truly deserving of its highest status in Britain proves the gross stupidity of Hereford Council.
To maintain the position that these are temporary structure requiring no planning consent in the face of legal precedent and deprive our village the right to object is against all democratic processes.
Shame is on Hereford Council, forcing forty people from Hoarwithy / Kings Caple to take this issue to the Ombudsman endeavouring to protect a national asset the famous Wye Valley and to safeguard for the future generations.( a further thirty peole from Walford and Marden also made complaint)
Now a community in Walford parish in the AONB have also made complaint to Ombudsman, also the village of Marden


References / Extracts from Letters, Newspaper, Statements

29 Sep 2000, to Paul Keetch MP from Ballingham Bolstone and Hentland Parish Council
"We have been discussing the effects of temporary structures in areas of outstanding natural beauty. The following resolution was made, which I am forwarding to you for consideration....
"Structures of a temporary nature such as Poly Tunnels that do not fall within the current constraints of planning procedures should be subject to appropriate controls to protect sensitive areas such as 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty'."

15 Jan 2001, Dept of the Environment, Beverley Hughes M.P. to Paul Keetch MP
"a). The Courts have held that some temporary structures used for agriculture are not 'buildings' in planning terms but are a use of land and so outside the general scope of planning control. Whether particular structures such as polythene tunnels constitute uses of land is ultimately a matter for the Courts to decide, on the facts of each case.

"b). Under the Town and Planning Order 1995, where a local planning authority believes there is a real and specific threat to the proper planning or amenities of a limited area it has powers under Article 4 of the Order to withdraw these permitted development rights.

"c). The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 includes provisions which will allow the better management of AONB,s through the requirement for every AONB to put in place a management plan which must be regularly reviewed. It places a duty on all public bodies and statutory undertakers when carrying out their functions so as to affect an AONB to have regard to the need to conserve and enhance natural beauty. It also provides for the creation of conservation boards for individual AONB, s where there is local support for such a move.”

27 Jan 1995, Dept of the Environment, Sir Paul Beresford
“Whether covering land with polythene tunnels or sheeting is development requiring planning permission is ultimately a matter for the courts and will depend on the facts of a particular case. Paragraph B4 of Annex B to Planning Policy Guidance note 7, The Countryside and the Rural Economy”, gives further information about temporary structures used for agriculture,. It may be that size, permanence and the degree of physical attachment indicate whether works amount to development, but all the circumstances of a particular case need to be considered. There are no hard and fast rules”

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Yearly Calendar / Revealing that these polytunnels are ever present in the landscape.

June to December

The green field is ploughed
Plastic covers the soil. This remains on the ground for the few years of the crop cycle
Gashes are made in the plastic Strawberry plants inserted
Gradually the plant grows it will not be replaced for
White plastic again litters the field as the plant recedes for winter


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December to July First Year

Hoops are raised A Construction Team working for several weeks
Plastic tunnel pulled over hoops in January
Irrigation pumps pull water from the river Mixing with chemical spray
Old plastic from other tunnels is dragged to a site and burnt

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July to December

Plastic tunnel removed   Hoops remain exposed and in fixed position
Ground plastic becomes exposed as plant recedes for winter  

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December to July Second Year

Plastic tunnel pulled over hoops in January
Irrigation pumped water from the river Mixing with chemical spray
Old plastic from other tunnels is dragged to a site and burnt




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July to December

Plastic tunnel removed
Hoops remain in fixed position
Ground plastic becomes exposed as plant recedes for winter  

December to July Third Year

Plastic tunnel pulled over hoops in January
Irrigation pumps pull water from the river Mixing with chemical spray
Old plastic from other tunnels is dragged to a site and burnt

July to December

Plastic tunnel whilst being removed at one site is being spread in another
In an adjacent field new hoops and tunnels are being erected
Hoops remain in fixed position through out the years  
Ground plastic becomes exposed as plant recedes for winter

And so onwards until the cycle is completed in that field

In adjacent fields a different cycle is already begun or ending
The plastic /polytunnel presence is a permanent feature

These are not “temporary structures, nor is this a temporary business

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Much "nonsense" is repeatedly asserted by Hereford planning that these are "temporary structures"
These photos at Walford  graphicaly illustrate the various growing cycles and the ever presence of the polytunnel in the landscape


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A well-established fruit grower who has grown strawberries under straw since 1930

Keen on conservation, dislikes polytunnel farming
The main problem is the supermarket.
They demand "A" crop fruit
Under tunnels 80% of strawberries are “A” crop
Under straw 40-50% is “A” crop the rest “B”
The main problem is rain and low temperatures that produces a nose on the berry that is unsightly, bumpier but perfectly all right to eat, the supermarkets do not like this.
Polytunnels have poor pollination so they introduce bees
The amount of pesticide sprayed in tunnels is about the same as not in tunnels.
Fungicide spray more of a problem in tunnels
Additional problems pickers from over seas
Not  much profit

Hence compensation for stopping could be reasonable

So it depends very much on supermarkets.
It is their insistence on grade “A”
Growers could sell 75% of their crop 50% as grade “A” and 25% grade “B”
Polytunnel growers sell 80%
So an increase sale of 5% the countryside is devastated with plastic.
He knew of the Brinkman appeal
So the growers in general know one day the council and AONB will force control
The “Hundred Mile” tunnel at Walford within the AONB covers approx 150 acres

Already supermarkets are encouraging the growing of other crops under plastic i.e. cherry trees.
The future intension is to use different coloured breathable plastics and larger tunnels

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