70 new local jobs will be created after the backing was given to plans to expand a successful mushroom farm near Southport.
The Planning Inspectorate gave its support to the ambitions of Smithy Mushrooms Limited to construct a mushroom farm in conjunction with the existing agricultural business at Bungalow Farm on Heatons Bridge Road in Scarisbrick. This would include portal frame buildings, car parking, hardstanding and a sustainable drainage system.
The development would double the firm’s workforce from 70 to 140.
Smithy Mushrooms has been a leader in the field of exotic mushrooms, supplying to a variety of national supermarket chains, Michelin starred restaurants and wholesale markets. All products are delivered the same day or next day to ensure freshness.
Last year, West Lancashire Borough Council rejected the firm’s planning application.
But the Planning Inspectorate has now overturned that decision, meaning the scheme can now go ahead.
Inspector W. Johnson wrote: “There is agreement between the main parties that the development does not amount to inappropriate development inside the Green Belt. Therefore, it is not necessary to consider the effect of the proposed development on Green Belt openness. Additionally, the demonstration of very special circumstances is not required. Furthermore, as the proposed development is for agricultural purposes and whilst the land will be used for a different agricultural purpose to what it is currently used for, it will not be lost to a non-agricultural use.
“The proposed development seeks to erect a number of buildings that would produce a variety of mushrooms. The appellant is established in this sector and based locally on Smithy Lane, where the proposed development would be an extension to the existing business. It is asserted that the existing business has exceeded its capacity at the Smithy Lane site and now needs to expand its mushroom production, as well as to produce its own growth substrate.”
West Lancashire Borough Council had refused the plans “by virtue of its bulk and scale would result in significant visual harm in this open, flat landscape”, a view that was not shared by the Planning Inspectorate.
A submission to the council on behalf of Smithy Mushrooms Limited said: “SML is one of the leading producers of exotic mushrooms in the UK, is constantly expanding and has now exceeded capacity of its existing site.
“It proposes to expand further by purchasing an adjacent site and creating purpose-built facilities for both growth substrate (oak sawdust logs) and mushroom production.
“This will allow the company to displace imports of logs (all are currently imported) and mushrooms and expand to meet customer demand.
“This proposal will provide an additional 70 local jobs, resulting in a total of 140 members of staff.”