Planning inquiry held over mushroom farm expansion

Mushroom growing house at Greyfriars.
Mushroom growing house at Greyfriars.

Planning Inspectors are due to close an inquiry into plans for expansion at Wath’s mushroom farm on Friday, September 16.

Owner Greyfriars UK is appealing the decision by Harrogate Borough Council to turn down its application for a new mushroom-growing shed on its New Mill House site in Wath.

Planning Inspector Graham Dudley opened the inquiry at Harrogate Council offices on Tuesday.

Around 25 residents and councillors packed out the opening day of proceedings, along with members of village action group Wath Against Mushrooms (WAM).

Opening the inquiry, Mr Dudley said he was not there to determine on what was on site already. The inquiry would, he said, consider the effect the growing shed would have on light pollution in the area, the character of the surrounding countryside, the nearby Grade II listed building and park at Norton Conyers, as well as traffic and highways issues.

In their opening statements lawyers for Greyfriars UK said that permitting the growing shed would reduce the number of HGVs passing through Melmerby and Wath on their way to the site as the amount of imported mushrooms coming in to the packing operation would fall.

Owners of Norton Conyers, Sir James and Lady Graham, were also at the opening with their own legal representation. Under the hearing rules those affected by planning appeals can have their views formally heard.

Sir James and Lady Graham’s solicitor, Andrew Kelton, rejected Greyfriars’ claims about lorry traffic.

“The existing levels of HGV traffic must be taken into account. This is an unsuitable area for large numbers of HGVs coming in day and night,” he said.

“There are also serious questions over the lawful use of Greyfriars’ site at New Mill House.

“A major step change occurred in 2002 when they began importing Polish mushrooms to pack on site, but there was no planning application for such a change of use.”

Landscape expert Jon Etchels was Harrogate Borough Council’s first witness. The proposed shed, the size of a football pitch with rows of doors down the sides, would not be “typical” of farm buildings in the area, he said.

Although Greyfriars plans include planting woodland to screen the shed it would take 15-20 years for the trees to grow big enough to hide such a large building, he added.

The appeal decision is expected to be published in seven weeks’ time.