84-caravan park for Leeds’s EU fruit pickers set for approval

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Plans chiefs are expected to sign off an application for 84 caravans to house “essential” foreign workers at a soft fruit farm in Leeds.

The farm in Micklefield grows strawberries and blackberries and the vans will house up to 350 fruit pickers.

A report to a Leeds City Council planning panel meeting today says there is a “continued essential need for foreign seasonal workers”.

UK growers currently recruit about a third of their seasonal workers from the core EU countries, and about half from countries that joined after 2004.

The Leeds council report notes that a previous Government backed Seasonal Workers Scheme (SAWS) “has been abolished by the government and there is no successor scheme - but demand for workers to service the soft fruit industry continues”.

The application is to retain the vans, which were originally placed at Makins farm - situated near the eastern edge of Garforth - in 2009, for another three years. The report says: “The proposed development seeks to retain the seasonal workers caravans granted temporary permission in 2009 and 2012. There is a continued essential need for foreign seasonal workers on the farm-holding to undertake duties associated with the soft fruit enterprise.”

Officers are recommending approval despite it being on Green Belt land. If green-lighted by the plans panel today, the application will still need to be referred to the Secretary of State for final approval as it is a “significant departure” from normal rules on protected land.

The caravans are three bedroom units with each having its own lounge, kitchen and bathroom.

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