FW Mansfield & Son fruit farm expansion in Canterbury ‘will be good for economy post-Brexit and coronavirus’

A huge expansion of a fruit farm outside Canterbury will benefit the city in wake of both Brexit and coronavirus, say council officers.

FW Mansfield & Son, the district’s second biggest employer, is planning to erect 20 new caravans for seasonal workers at its base in Nackington after snapping up an extra 275 acres of land nearby.

Mansfields Fruit Farm, off Pett Bottom Road, outside Canterbury
Mansfields Fruit Farm, off Pett Bottom Road, outside Canterbury

It is seeking permission from the city council to go ahead and install the temporary homes off Pett Bottom Road.

The proposals, which are set to cater for 80 additional workers, have sparked uproar from disgruntled villagers who claim some staff defecate in the countryside. But Canterbury City Council’s property and regeneration team have thrown their support behind the scheme – citing welcome economy and jobs boosts for 2021.

In a comment backing the project, authority officer Nick Churchill says the food production industry is forecast an increased demand for additional labour over the next 12 months. He stresses there will be “even greater appetite from local people for local agricultural jobs”.

Mr Churchill says growing more domestic fresh produce now forms part of national policy and “will become an even greater priority as the UK leaves the EU”.

“This is supportive of national policy context, notably the draft Agriculture Bill, which encourages farmers to increase the amount of fresh produce grown in the UK as well as making provision for greater UK food security following departure from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy,” he states.

The firm is expanding by the size of 200 football pitches
The firm is expanding by the size of 200 football pitches

“The proposed scheme will also support the applicant’s intention to deliver new financial investment and create new jobs, which would result in employment opportunities that local residents, in my view, are now far more likely to take-up due to a changing economic environment,” he adds.

While Mansfields has historically relied on Eastern European labourers, it expects the new roles to be taken by locals left unemployed by the fallout of the pandemic. New restrictions on freedom of movement are also expected to prevent foreign workers from arriving and taking up the seasonal jobs.

But installing caravans at the site is still deemed a major requirement.

Mr Churchill adds: “Provision of suitable, temporary on-site accommodation remains an important part of the modern day infrastructure required in attracting and retaining labour in this highly competitive sector.

“The planning proposal should be considered an essential element of the wider investment project and a lack of suitable staff accommodation would greatly undermine the applicant’s ability to secure the labour required to deliver this.”

The expansion is hoped to be good for the local economy post-Brexit
The expansion is hoped to be good for the local economy post-Brexit

The council’s support of the project comes amid mounting opposition from critics who fear significant increases in traffic, litter and noise, and a rise in human faeces being found near public footpaths.

Despite gaining the support of the property and regeneration team, the application still needs to be determined by the council’s planning department.

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