Residents and community groups have said tourism on the Manhood Peninsula would suffer if plans to build glasshouses over 52 acres in Almodington were given the green light.
More than half-way through a momentous 12-day inquiry into the plans in Chichester, residents and groups from all over the peninsula made their views loud and clear about Madestein’s plans to grow lettuces at Easton Farm.
A common concern raised by residents was the impact the glasshouses may have on the new nearby Medmerry sea defence realignment scheme, which when completed will have new footpaths and bridleways to improve tourism in the area.
Volunteer joint project leader of the Manhood Peninsula Partnership, Carolyn Cobbold, said: “Converting the heart of the peninsula to a mono-culture of lettuce growing under glass would, we believe, be a devastating and critical tipping point for tourism here, just at a time when a wonderful opportunity in the form of Medmerry promises our tourism industry a bright, sustainable future.
“The Manhood is an area of big skies, big views and a big heart. We urge you to adopt a long-term view in this planning appeal, to preserve the tranquil and remote heart of our peninsula and to adopt some blue sky thinking.”
Chairman of the Friends of Chichester Harbour, Richard Hill, spoke of the group’s opposition to the plans.
He said: “In the Chichester district, the appellant could hardly have chosen a worse location for the proposed site. Why chose a site overlooking the sea at Medmerry? Why ruin a country lane, one of the few left near the coastline of West Sussex?”
However both Colin Frampton of the West Sussex Growers’ Association and Sidlesham councillor Diana Pound supported the plans.
Mr Frampton said Chichester should be playing its part towards food production industry. He pointed out the district council does support horticulture in the area.
He added: “If Madestein could have built near Runcton they would have done, but the price of land is exorbitant.”
Cllr Pound said there had been ‘scare-mongering’ in the press about the size and effects the glasshouses would have on the community.
She said: “We have seen a decline in growers. The council’s Horticultural Development Areas are out of date because they are too small. There is a great demand for lettuce.”
She added that the development would mean new workers and families coming to the village, and this would make it ‘more vibrant’.
Residents and community groups have addressed the planning inquiry at Chichester District Council’s East Pallant office. The inquiry will continue at the council’s office again on April 16, starting with a site visit to Easton Farm.