A local campaign group against plans to build glasshouses across 52 acres of land in Almodington has slammed the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) after it urged its members from all around the country to support the plans through an online poll.
John Cunningham-Reid, committee member of the Almodington Association which fiercely opposes the plans, said the NFU’s decision to get all of its followers on Twitter to vote on an online Observer poll ‘skewed’ the reality of the situation.
He said: “The results of the poll were totally skewed by a well-organised campaign from the NFU, a powerful national organisation, who are understandably supportive of national horticulture interests and jobs, seemingly regardless of the negative impact on our small community.
“The thousands of votes they generated were from people who do not live here and very few were readers of the Chichester Observer.”
After the votes were counted, the majority of people voted ‘no’ to block Madestein’s glasshouses plans for Easton Farm and therefore support them.
In a recent weekly newsletter online, the south-east NFU branch said: “You voted in droves and the result was overwhelmingly against this ill-founded campaign, so a victory for horticulture.”
On Twitter the NFU HQ urged its followers to vote ‘no’. The NFU said the West Sussex glasshouse sector was a major employer and contributed significantly to the county’s economy. John Archer, environment and land use adviser at the NFU south-east branch, said: “People don’t like the look of it and I sympathise with that, of course I do, but it’s not a planning constraint.”
A spokeswoman for the NFU south-east branch, Isobel Bretherton, said: “Chichester and the West Sussex coastal plain is strategically important for future productions. A lot of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed are imported.”
Madestein appealed against Chichester District Council’s refusal of planning permission for the plans. A public inquiry is being held at the district council’s office at East Pallant, Chichester, on February 27.