Suggestions that glasshouse sites within some areas of the Lee Valley Regional Park, north of London, could be compulsorily purchased to bring the land into recreational or leisure use have been condemned by the Lea Valley Growers Association (LVGA) as ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘illogical’.
The proposals form part of the regional park authority’s consultation on the park’s future use and development. For one area towards the northern end of the park, the authority wants to work with stakeholders to identify sites that have been ‘abandoned’ or ‘are likely to be surplus to production in the next 10-15 years’ and carry out feasibility studies into ways of using that land that would be compatible with the park’s remit.
LVGA secretary Lee Stiles said the proposals had come out of the blue. “Merely publishing the proposals could have an adverse effect on the businesses the authority wants to restrict,” he said. “We have lodged a formal complaint and we’re seeking the withdrawal of the consultation.
“We’re more than happy to sit down with the authority and discuss plans for the future of the Lea Valley, but those plans must encompass a thriving glasshouse industry.
“We won’t allow our members to be airbrushed out of that future.”
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority’s head of planning and partnerships Stephen Wilkinson said the association’s fears were ‘unfounded’ and that there were no plans to compulsorily purchase ‘any existing glasshouses’.
“The authority is proposing that it would consider acquiring any land that glasshouses occupy if, at some future point, there is a decline in the industry and they become redundant,” he added. “This strategy is aimed at preventing these areas being lost to inappropriately built development in the regional park.
He said the park had been created partly by reclaiming hundreds of acres of redundant land which had been used by the then declining glasshouse industry.
“We acknowledge the importance of the glasshouse industry in the Lee Valley and we do not want to undermine it or close existing businesses, but our statutory role means that we don’t believe that new glasshouses should be built or expanded within the current regional park boundaries.
“Once the consultation process has been completed the authority’s park development framework will be reviewed, taking on board the comments of the glasshouse industry together with all other stakeholders that have been consulted. We’ll then run a second round of consultation in the summer.”
The consultation closes on February 12.