Image from kings caple church. small.jpg (55832 bytes)

photo: angel recoils from plastic shroud creeping across this once gentle landscape in the heart of the Wye Valley

24 Nov 1994, National Farmers Union, Tim Eaton, Senior Policy Adviser
“if you think your valley looks like a lake, some parts of southern Spain look like a sea “.

Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd 19 April 2000 Stamford House SE1 9LL
“we do purchase strawberries grown in polythene tunnels from the Wye Valley, ----------I assure you we do pay closee attention to the environmental impact of everything we do,”

Peter Terson Playwright, Script from the production of “Pigeons Aloft”
“Well I'm a landscape painter .I'm supposed to be inspired by the landscape, the richness of the soil the textures, the harmonies…I'm not inspired by POLYTHENE STRAWBERRY TUNNELS…. It’s like; if I was a portrait painter and they stuck plastic bags over the heads of my sitters”.

Heather Hurley, Local Historian and Author
“The Wye Valley an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty now known as 'PLASTIC VALLEY'

“Visitors are appalled that these polytunnels are allowed to spoil the beautiful countryside and walkers are stunned to be walking through a corridor of plastic”


polytunnels.across.footpath.small.jpg (88962 bytes)

photo: polytunnels across footpath KC 16. The council were informed in June 11th 2002 two months later a pathway was cleared but they failed to issue directives to remove the polytunnels, Not only have residents to stare across the plastic destruction of the landscape but they are it seems expected to walk beneath it in their enjoyment of the public footpaths in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Sylvia Kelly, Footpath Officer for Hentland/Ballingham
”Many of the high paths have prominent views and see this white sprawl for miles around, other paths run alongside the polytunnels. This is undesirable for those who live here and an eyesore memory for visitors.”

Dec 20, 2001, P.Hoskins Hereford Times
“These wretched structures appear to be sited close to homes and gardens and must cause great distress to all who previously enjoyed an unobstructed view. The development is surely something the local authority can, and should, seek to control.”

Peter & Julie Foran, Hoarwithy, Residents
“Environmental Eyesore, Spreading like a virus across the countryside. Supposedly an area of outstanding natural beauty sacrificed on the altar of over-production and commercial gain. A sea of white plastic threatening to become an ocean, is this natural or necessary?  Is commerce going to override all other considerations, why should the desire to produce strawberries out of season be allowed to create such environmental havoc”.

11th March - "It is with considerable concern and consternation that I witness the erection of yet more plastic polytunnels by Mr Neil Cockburn, over the fields facing my property. I find it difficult to comprehend how in a designated 'area of outstanding natural beauty' this could be allowed to happen.

"Whilst not wishing to deprive Mr Cockburn of his living, it would appear that he has shown precious little regard for his position as a 'steward of the countryside' and contemptuously ignored the feeling of his neighbours in his pursuit of profit."

Edward Kelly, Hereford Times, “Once one of the most beautiful areas of the Wye Valley between Kings Caple and Hoarwithy has now become a white plastic wasteland, two to five thousand hoops per field, mile upon mile of polytunnel”

Susan and Simon Anderson, Hoarwithy Residents
"We have great sympathies to the problems of farming however we would like to see the introduction of controls over polytunnels”

Peter Simkins, Chairman of The friends of Hoarwithy Hereford Times Jan 10 2002
“Tourism holiday cottages will suffer because who will want a vacation overlooking plastic whilst listening to the noise of river pumps. Growers claim they help the local economy, but vast numbers are drawn from Eastern Europe.”

“When I wrote my letter to the Hereford times I believed that the Herefordshire Council had no way of getting control over the method of farming I now learn there is a precedence where the Inspector of State found polytunnels did constitute development requiring planning permission”.   “Nobody cares”

David & Jennifer Kennedy Resident of Hoarwithy
“Restrictions should be placed on the agricultural sector to inhibit and control the intrusion of these ugly polythene tunnels so that the area may once again be truly classified as an area of outstanding natural beauty”.

John Hurley Writer Hoarwithy Resident
“We are heartedly sick of the madness of covering the most engaging and attractive parts of Herefordshire with plastic and polluting the unique River Wye, city dwellers who come here for short breaks in response to your expensive advertising, find the place soulless and desolate As to the famous suggestion made I understand by a parish council in my area, that plastic tunnels help the community. This is patently a self interested lie. The truth is they help a few landowners and give temporary employment largely to immigrant workers who sleep and eat on site”

Emma Plain, Resident of Hoarwithy. Opera Singer and Voice Tutor, Dip TCL, LTCL, STCL, AD Dip WCMD

John Ellard, Hoarwithy Resident, Professional Photographer
Contribution – photographs. Has photographs of the landscape that enticed him here (before the plastic explosion)

Kline, Mapleview Company Director Hoarwithy
“I want to preserve a beautiful environment we can all enjoy living in .Why are we left to fight this blight? This is the duty and responsibility of the AONB”

Sunday Telegraph March 2000 Adam Nicolson whilst balancing with the virtue of a small garden tunnel writes
“I know what people think a polytunnel is pure visual pollution..    …Plastic slugs littering the fields … an alien presence in the rural landscape…Perhaps local planning officers should conduct a campaign to get rid of them.

Hereford Journal, News Paper Report, Head Line “Farmers “Ruining The View”
A King’s Caple fruit farmer is facing local opposition over his plastic covered “polytunnels” which he uses to farm strawberries.

Patricia & Michael Donald, Resident of Hoarwithy

Joanne Peter Huyton, Hoarwithy Resident
“ The planning laws on polytunnels were devised years ago when these structures were used in purely horticultural business and the areas covered were very limited. With the increasing use of polytunnels in agriculture and their sprawl into the countryside, the current planning rules have become an irrelevance. Polytunnels in general countryside have become a blight, but to allow an a.o.n.b. to be scared by this blanket of plastic is just plain crazy.”

Daphne and Richard Wyatt, Hoarwithy Resident
“We find it deeply depressing now that the whole riverside Area of Outstanding NATURAL Beauty is swathed in shiny artificial white skin. For Herefordshire it is economic suicide. Tourists are appalled by this ugliness along the famous Wye”.

John Kuusisto, Hoarwithy Resident, Formerly, Senior Architect Greater London Council.
In no way can these tunnels be described as objects of beauty; the glaring white colour and sheer scale of development is destroying the countryside.

Professor Ronald Pennell & Betty Pennell, Hoarwithy Residents,
“Appalling View across the River Wye to Pennoxstone Court and adjacent land.... We are asking the Council for the entire removal of polytunnels from the indicated in the Brinkman decision.”

Brian Thomas, Kings Caple Resident
“These structures are completely alien and have a detrimental visual impact on the landscape, it will surely have an adverse effect on the tourist industry which is becoming increasingly important to the rural economy as the importance of subsidised agriculture declines”

P H Rathbone, Hoarwithy Resident
“ My wife and I are upset by the expansion and intrusion of polytunnel farming. There is total disregard for the community in our area of outstanding natural beauty.”

Ruth Morris, Hoarwithy Resident
”A significant blot on an area of outstanding natural beauty and should not be allowed.This enormous “factory” was erected without planning permission (as required by the Brinkman decision 15th June1999) and is damaging the quiet enjoyment of the countryside by local inhabitants.”

B L Bergman, Hoarwithy Resident
“We live in a commanding position on the west bank of the River Wye not only an Area of Outstanding Beauty but also an SSSI. With the arrival of polythene tunnels facing us at Kings Caple our environment has been blighted and these tunnels are unlawful.

Arthur Barton, Hoarwithy Resident
Remove these from the AONB as indicated in the Chichester appeal decision.

Mr & Mrs Simon Harris, Hoarwithy resident
"When I moved into Hoarwithy part of the attraction was obviously the beautiful views that could be seen from all directions …………………have the polytunnels removed to ensure that local Hoarwithy residents do not have to look out at the unsightly poly tunnels for yet another year."

Mr & Mrs Farmer Hoarwithy residents
Remove from the AONB

Mr & Mrs D Warren, Hoarwithy resident
Remove from AONB.

Mrs Philips, Hoarwithy Resident  
Enforcement and remove from AONB

Mr & Mrs D Garbutt, Kings Caple residents
"Remove from AONB as indicated in the Chichester appeal decision."

Mrs M J Lyons, Hoarwithy resident
"Grateful that  something  is being done about this."

Duchy of Cornwall, Representative Mr. Curtis, Buckingham Palace
"I can understand your personal comments having viewed the valley from your property. I am sure that many will await the outcome of your complaint lodged with the Ombudsman."

J.E.Wright, Kings Caple resident.

These monstrous polythene tunnels polluting this once beautiful countryside around Kings Caple are not growing food for the benefit of the people. They do not provide work for the locals as those who work in them are imported from Eastern Europe all they do is turn the village into the rural equivalent of an industrial estate…Herefordshire will lose an important source of its income tourism. Take away this county’s beauty and what reason is there to visit it?

Mr & Mrs Edwards, Hoarwithy/Carey resident


CPRE,Council for the Protection of Rural England, Kate Parminter Director,

On the subject of polythene farming in an AONB - “depressing”
"CPRE have long been concerned about the present exclusion of farming developments from the planning process which allow consideration of the wider impact of such developments on the landscape and local community. We contend that the special circumstances which gave rise to the removal of agricultural development from the democratic planning system and gave them special treatment (arguments which applied after the Second World War) no longer apply. Farmers plan their business futures like any other business and should be treated in the same way.

We were hopeful that the recent Rural White Paper would signal a revision of PPG7 which brought farming development into the planning system and allowed issues of landscape to be considered before permitting the development. Sadly this was not the case but we will continue to press for necessary revisions to planning policy. I would therefore be pleased to know if Paul Keetch is supportive of a change of legislation, as we would wish to keep him informed of our campaign on this issue.

The Minster confirmed recently that AONB, s have the same status in planning as National Parks so should such a revision to bring farming into the planning system be forthcoming areas such as the Wye Valley could be better protected from the blight and cumulative impact of these landscape intrusions.”                              

Late additions, Resolution passed 7th Feb 2002 

  1. The CPRE (South Wye Group) considers that polytunnel plastic farming seriously degrades areas of sensitive landscape notably Areas of Outstanding Beauty and there is a need for planning controls to protect such areas.
  1. The CPRE wishes to ask the district council to examine closely ways to control this within current legislation.
  1. If it is found that it has no powers then the CPRE believes the council should seek new legislation



Parish Council Policy

Commercial Development within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Ballingham, Bolstone and Hentland Parish Council View

Ballingham, Bolstone and Hentland Group Parish Council, like any other parish council, has a responsibility to respond to issues put to it by the local community. At the 2002 Annual Parish Meeting held in Hoarwithy, councillors were made aware of the concerns of Hoarwithy residents over the impact on the village of the increasing area of polytunnels in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and of their frustration at the apparent unwillingness of Herefordshire Council to take any steps to control the spread of these structures.

 This is a difficult and controversial question, as correspondence in the letters column of  The Hereford Times has illustrated. However, with good will, compromise and open discussion, it can be resolved. The view of the Ballingham, Bolstone and Hentland Parish Council is as follows:

 a.  In a free market society, private profit is important. Nevertheless, such profit is not an unlimited right, and the impact of any commercial development on the local community needs also to be taken into account. It is the failure to do so as regards the spread of polytunnels that causes so much frustration. Local concerns on this issue are both environmental (in response to the visual impact on the landscape and to the noise pollution generated by water pumps - polytunnels prevent rain falling on the crop) and economic (the threat to tourism-dependent small businesses and to holiday lettings.)

 b. Concern over the spread of polytunnels is sometimes misrepresented as “trying to stop the landowner earning his living.”  This is an unfair caricature of the case, as though the alternative to polytunnels was destitution. The issue really concerns the correct balance between:

i.the additional income generated by polytunnels,(as opposed to that derived from any alternative use of the land in question) on the one hand, and

ii. the wider impact of these polytunnels on the community as a whole, on the other.

 The Parish Council is not attempting to claim for itself the right to make the definitive judgement on this balance, but it does believe that it is a question which should be open to full public discussion, with an input from all those who are affected by the spread of polytunnels.

 c. In most instances, the forum for debate about commercial developments and change of land use is the Planning Process, and the Parish Council has previously urged this method upon both Herefordshire Council and Paul Keetch MP. The reply has been that polytunnels are not subject to control because they are temporary structures (“temporary”  not in its everyday sense of “in place for a limited time” but in the technical sense of “not requiring a hard-standing foundation”). If this is the case, it means that it will be quite legal for polytunnels to be erected over any extent of countryside, to surround any housing area, or to destroy any beauty spot.

 d.  The Parish Council emphasizes that it is not against commercial development, or indeed even against polytunnels in themselves; it recognises that there may be a case to be made for them in some locations. However, it believes that their unrestricted spread, without any consultation of all those who are affected by them, is an injustice to the local community. It also recognizes that the importance of preserving the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty may involve additional considerations. Any businessman who intends to introduce polytunnels to his land should have his wishes balanced against those of the community, and the case for both sides should be open to public scrutiny and debate, as with any other development.

 e.  Ballingham, Bolstone and Hentland Parish Council believes that the Planning Process is the best forum in which this discussion should take place.

 Adopted unanimously by Ballingham, Bolstone and Hentland Parish Council at its meeting on 18 June 2002.

Campaign, Polytunnels, Strawberries, Strawberry, Herefordshire Planning, Plastic, Environment, AONB, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Asset, Herefordshire Council, Control, Intensive Farming, Democracy, Polytunnel, Poly-Tunnel, Raspberries, Raspberry, KG Fruits, S & ADavies, Arrow Valley, Wye Valley, Tuneles de plastico, Countryside, Fruit growers, Agriculture, Hereford, Hoarwithy, Kings Caple, Ross-on-Wye, Goodrich,

New tunnels Kings C aple small.jpg (92619 bytes)

photo: September 2002, recent polytunnel expansion surrounding Kings Caple church

Circular letter to all councillors and others (20th June 2002)


WALFORD 150-acre site, south of Ross on Wye, a permanent and expanding blight
The third largest polytunnel / business in the UK and allowed by Herefordshire planning to destroy one of England’s Finest Landscape, the famous Wye Valley.

KINGS CAPLE opposite the village of HOARWITHY once proudly featured on the cover of Hereford Planning Booklet, the picturesque  “Gem” of riverside hamlets. Now a white wasteland of billowing plastic in the heart of the Wye Valley AONB, alongside the main geographical feature in Herefordshire the river itself, in open valley and amidst historical buildings, the most sensitive location in an area of great landscape value, site of special scientific interest.

AONB Policy statement, “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty share equal status with National Parks in terms of scenic beauty and landscape protection” (no protection alas in Herefordshire)

Ian Slater, former Head of Planning to Paul Keetch M.P. 6th Dec 2000.
“Responses to polytunnels are essentially subjective, I would not want us to be debating the merits of strawberry cloches”

Julie Preston Head of Planning Services holds to the view, akin to Catch 22
Classed, as “temporary structures”, will not look at visual impact on the landscape.
Will not look at visual impact because they are classed as “temporary structures”

15th June 1999 The Inspector for the Secretary of State (Chichester), whilst recognizing the value of polytunnel as a method of production, ruled that polytunnels do need planning consents and should not be allowed on an AONB saying “there is no doubt that the polytunnels cause considerable visual harm in this sensitive location within the AONB.”

Hereford planning has failed to implement that decision, worse they have concealed these facts.

Parish councils and individuals have pleaded for years with the planning to introduce controls. In typical response as stated 12th April 2000.“Herefordshire Council Planning Authority does not have powers to control the type of polythene tunnels”. Clearly at the time it did. They are now bent on ignoring what is the highest legal ruling on polytunnels they use the resources of the legal department striving to find a difference between the Chichester decision to what is happening here

The latest argument turns away from the tunnels themselves and seizes upon the fact that the strawberries at Chichester were grown in hay whilst in Herefordshire they are grown in the soil This shameful attempt to divert focus was confirmed with Julie Preston 31st May 2002.

Other “clever “ points are about duration of cycle that attempts to dismiss the reality that these are a permanent ever-present blight.

No doubt other equally spurious argument will be given. Barrister opinion is being sought but the Chichester decision is crystal clear, such polytunnels should never have been allowed in the AONB, so by past and present record Queens Council will be asked to protect Hereford planning and their negligence rather than its landscape and people.

This position follows six months of continuous flow of detailed record, visual documentation, aerial photographs, legal argument and the full knowledge that this viewpoint is not accepted byother planning authorities there are numerous examples i.e. Worchester considers polytunnels are agricultural buildings requiring planning consents.

Being “caught” the planning dept might have swiftly moved to correct this injustice, but no.

In desperation large numbers of residents through out Herefordshire have now made complaint to the Ombudsman against the council for maladministration and injustice.

Hereford planning is being perverse in their interpretation of the Chichester decision in their wish to wriggle out of its implementation. No doubt business interests are thwarting justice.

These childish games and determination not to “see” will plunge the council into Judicial Review. Hereford will have to contest both the Chichester decision and legal argument of Case Law” Skerrits of Nottingham Ltd v. Secretary of State for the Environment” March 22 2000 This case overturns previous notions of what constitutes a building.

Clearly many farmers need to diversify if they are to make a living but this is not farming in any previous convention of the word this is third world factory enterprise in the midst of the most glorious English landscape. Surely here there is need to encourage “green” farming that employs local agricultural workers .All recent government directives point to the need to protect landscape.

These businessmen with their plastic work sheds are not in a temporary business.

“2000 acres of tunnels constructed in the last five years” says John Berry, Haygrove Tunnels, and Herefordshire. This method is in its infancy, trials and research are set to expand production to larger tunnels in a variety of coloured plastics, it is imperative to have controls as would be required in all other planning issues, so as to protect individual democratic rights and sensitive landscape throughout Herefordshire. MARDEN once nominated as best-kept village and enjoyed the open landscape now swamped in plastic, a vast overseas workforce working day & night, creating enormous social problems and injustice.

Covering the finest landscape within the AONB with plastic is plain crazy. Surely there are opinions in the council that deplore this visually blind policy of Hereford planning department?  Other councils’ planning departments do not agree, expressing disbelief with this viewpoint.

If you wish this issue to be open for public enquiry or have any contribution you can make to bring this to a speedy conclusion then the large numbers of people contesting this issue would be grateful if you would make your views known.

Thank you for your time and consideration, from the communities of Hoarwithy, Kings Caple Walford and Marden Sincerely,

Edward Kelly Wye Hill, Hoarwithy, Herefordshire. HR2 6QS.                           20th June 2002
COPY for wide circulation to councillors and interested parties including;
Paul Thomson, The Countryside Agency, West Midlands Region,
Alan Poole Chief Development Control Officer, Herefordshire District Council,
Christopher Grover, Cabinet Member for the Environment Hereford Council
Robert Price CPRE .JAC for AONB
Ian Smith, Head of Planning and Transport Government Office West Midlands
David Howatson, Head of Rural Affairs Government Office West Midlands
John Oliver, Bishop of Hereford
Stuart Thomas, Councillor
Paul Keetch M.P. House of Commons
Polly Andrews, Head of Herefordshire Councils Planning Committee
DEFRA, London
Duchy of Cornwall
Marian Spain Head of Finest Countryside Cheltenham
Tony Featherstone, Leisure Services Manager Herefordshire Council
Andrew Blake, Wye Valley AONB Office
John Butterfield, Countryside Agency
Rosie White, CPRE 25 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1 WOPP
Anthony Laird, Chairman, Ballingham Bolstone and Hentland Group Parish Council
J M Perry Walford Parish Council
Jill Lambeth Investigator, Local Government Ombudsman



A J Tyler (Mrs) Planning Assistant,
Planning Services.Herefordshire District Council,
P O Box 230 Hereford HR1 2ZB

Dear, Mrs A.J. Tyler,
Reference; -Mr ------proposed a Timber Construction at---------- Hoarwithy. (Your letter 11th April 2002)

 It is the view of the planning department that a woodshed of “Wendy house” proportion larger than 10 cubic metres is considered potentially detrimental to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 On the 15th April 2002 Mr ........ received a letter from Terry Jones, a response to a complaint against the polytunnels decimating Hoarwithy village.The council cannot decide whether or not polytunnels require planning consents.

 The current size of these tunnels is worked out as;
Volume =p r squared divided by 2   x length
Volume = p x 4m sq =12.56sq,m divided by 2=6.28sq,m x 20 miles (32186.88 metres) Total 808944.56 cubic metres 
Total devided by 10 cubic metres (size requiring planning consent)  =80,894.456cubic metres
The volume of polytunnels is Eighty thousand eight hundred and ninety four times larger than the 10 metres requiring stated size requiring planning consents 
New tunnels will result in a forty mile length =161,7891.2cu metres

These polytunnels will be,
ONE HUNDRED & SIXTY ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED & EIGHTY NINE TIMES larger than the 10 cubic metres considered harmful to the Area of Outstanding Beauty.

 Mr......... “Wendy house” is hidden in the rear garden
Mr Cockburns polytunnels are destroying our village and the Wye valley
Mr Cockburns polytunnels require no planning consents
A “ Wendy house “does

 I would be pleased if you could enlighten me, what is the planning departments thinking on this issue?
Yours sincerely

 It seems our one eyed council supports law and regulation for the the majority and no law for the polybusiness men  ,

Circular letter to all councillors and others (3rd October 2002)

cpc-heading bit.jpg (21218 bytes)Hereford councillors are being asked to
support a voluntary code of conduct as
opposed to introducing planning control
over the use of polytunnels.

The council held an Environment Programme Meeting 2nd September 2002 for supposedly open ended discussion, a proposal, a way forward, had been made to which we were adamantly opposed. Surprise then when we discovered in the press that the council would now go forward with this proposal. It was a meeting dominated by two long introductory talks by the two millionaires selling their products whilst the opposition as we are called failed to keep Douglas Gardiner on the floor for three minutes before he was silenced by the councils lawyers.

The reason he was “silenced” was that he was about to say that we have been banging on the door of this council for four years. The planning department had repeatedly said they had no powers to control these polytunnels. Subsequently however we discovered that they had concealed legal ruling on this very issue since 15th June 1999.

Now of course we have in the Wye Valley AONB two monstrous polytunnel sites as well as the abuse at Marden and ever increasing explosions throughout Herefordshire. The sheer scale of these buildings is having disastrous effects upon the landscape and village communities. Despite what the agenda for the Environment Programme reports seventy people have made complaint to the Ombudsman on grounds of "maladministration" and "injustice”. This is but the tip of a surfacing iceberg.

Voluntary control, on an issue of this magnitude is a fairy story. A proposal no doubt to divert focus from the urgent need to enforce planning regulation and a theatre acted out to appease the Ombudsman .The Ombudsman can only consider primarily matters of procedure rather than the rights and wrongs of a decision. There is a failure to address existence of the Brinkman ruling. Herefordshire is set to continue to allow these millionaire businesses men under the sympathy vote of “poor farmers” to dictate terms, seize control, destroy our best landscape and pervert democratic rights.

The proposal of voluntary control is further insult to the long-suffering majority that daily witness year upon year the abuse thrust upon them and the environment.

Time and time again the justification for tearing up the most beautiful landscape in the AONB as was indeed reiterated by Polly Andrews Head of council is that Herefordshire is a farming community and we must support the farmers. So what is Worchester doing with its landscape and all the other rural counties throughout Britain who have planning controls? Perhaps they are listening to the majority and diversity of people in their county and acting responsibly to reflect their concerns and adhering to legal precedent.

The CPC does support the farmers and is not against the use of polytunnels in the right place

We ask Herefordshire councillors:

Image Syl in Graveyard. small.jpg (97925 bytes)

photo: surveying the new expansions of polytunnels from Kings Caple churchyard

A plastic shroud creeps across this once gentle landscape in the heart of Wye Valley AONB linking the two historic sites of Kings Caple and Hoarwithy Churches.

Once of breathtaking beauty now breath taking in the sheer audacity of this grower Mr.Cockburn with yet more fields beyond now being prepared for expansion. What is the madness that brings Herefordshire Council to insist on planning consents for a "wendy" house least it should be detrimental to the AONB whilst harmful to the Area of Outstanding Beauty. resisting implementing controls over this nightmare, a council that now proposes a "voluntary code of practice will see it right, is breathtaking in its stupidity.


Thank you on behalf of the CPC.