A CONTROVERSIAL scheme to put up polytunnels in the Hampshire countryside is to come under the spotlight of planners.

Officials are recommending borough councillors approve the project, on 17.5 hectares of land next to Grade II-listed Kings Farm at West Wellow.

However, there has been mixed reactions to fruit and vegetable wholesalers Littlebrook Nursery’s plans.

Most of the former pig farm site is open fields now used for commercial soft fruit production. Some polytunnels have already been erected without planning permission.

Now the nursery’s owners are asking Test Valley council to retain them and to add more to the agricultural site.

Despite planning officers recommending that the scheme is given the green light, the council’s own design and conservation team don’t like the plans and are objecting on the grounds that it will have an adverse impact on the grade two listed nearby Kings Farm in Foxes Lane.

Other objections have been raised by Wellow Parish Council.

The grassroots authority claim the proposed polytunnels will be detrimental to the landscape qualities of the area, and the proposals if approved would lead to a 50 per cent increase in heavy goods vehicles to the site and nearby lanes.

And the parish council which is worried that floodwater from the site will drain into the River Blackwater causing what it describes as “unknown damage” to wildlife and ecology.

Nearly 50 residents in the Wellow area have also attacked the plans along with bodies such as the Salmon and Trout Association, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Wellow History Society.

Some objectors who have written to Test Valley’s planning bosses claim the road infrastructure is “inadequate” and not wide enough to take large vehicles coming and going from the site and there are concerns about the safety of pedestrians using Foxes Lane.

Protesters also claim that the polytunnels are “detrimental” to the rural character of the area and it will lead to “industrialisation” of the countryside.

A petition against the proposed development with 52 signatures was also received by the planners.

However, the applicants, R and V Emery have received support for their plans from several organisations including the Farm Fresh Producers Organisation, British Summer Fruits, the National Farmers Union, Linking Environment and Farming, local businesses and some residents in the area.

One unnamed supporter who lives near the site says that whilst the polytunnel site is not “invisible” they prefer this to other farming activities such as pig farming.

Another says that despite people’s beliefs there is “little noise or disturbance” from season agricultural operations at the site. There is also a petition with 45 signatures supporting the plans.