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

Have your say

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.