A MEON Valley business has been given permission to expand its production of soft fruits.

Graham Collett, of Ford Farm, Bishop's Waltham had submitted a part-retrospective application to set up poly tunnels.

During lockdown, he erected a number of the plastic structures to grow raspberries and strawberries. He supplied the fruit to shops that were struggling to get produce imported due to the pandemic.

At a Winchester City Council planning committee on October 22, he was given permission to keep the tunnels, as well as set up a few more.

But this was not without rigorous examination by Cllr David McLean.

"You did not submit an application originally and decided to go ahead and do something without the correct permissions in place," he said, "which I find a little upsetting."

"I also believe you need to camouflage the tunnels – they are white plastic and a visible blot on the landscape.

"I'm all for the growth of a local business and I praise the local fruit produce industry. I just want to be sure we are doing the right thing here."

In his application, Mr Collett states that he will be placing 10 mature trees where his land meets Botley Road to ensure the tunnels are as hidden as possible. He will also be planting hedgerows to enhance this.

Cllr Angela Clear said: "I stopped on Botley Road before considering this application and you only get a glimpse of the tunnels from there as it is.

"I do not think it's a blot on the landscape and I think we need lovely soft fruits. This is good for the local economy."

Following debate, Cllr McLean said he was happy to support the application being approved.

He added: "I will be keeping an eye on it. As long as the landowner keeps to his word, I don't see any problems."

The plans were unanimously voted for approval.

Mr Collett supplies many local shops with his fruit, including Westlands Farm in Pricketts Hill, Shedfield.

Chairman of the committee, Cllr Therese Evans, said the raspberries are "some of the best I have ever tasted".