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Polytunnels Do Not Require an Environmental Impact Assessment

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

A Herefordshire farmer who wished to set up more than 50 hectares of polytunnels on his 377 hectare farm found his wishes opposed by environmental group Natural England in a case which went to the Court of Appeal.

The farmer’s local council decided that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not required in order to grant planning permission. Natural England originally objected on the ground that the farm was situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Although that objection was later withdrawn, the planning application was still opposed on the ground that the development was a project which was to use ‘uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agricultural purposes’. The objection was supported by the Wye Valley Action Association.

The Court of Appeal was robust in its rejection of the objection, concluding that the council’s decision that an EIA was not necessary was not irrational and it had given appropriate consideration to the environmental information supplied.

This case will please the farming community but bring sadness to environmentalists who oppose agricultural development that changes the landscape, who will see it as opening the floodgates to widespread ‘plasticisation’ of the countryside.

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