A 200m-long glasshouse for the production of tomatoes will be built near Minto, following a lengthy debate at a council meeting on Monday.
Despite being assured by applicant Jim Shanks that two large rainwater tanks would provide all the water required for the commercial growing of tomatoes at Standhill Farm, councillors on the planning committee were troubled by the potential impact of the scheme on nearby residents.
David Walmsley spoke on behalf of residents who have private borehole and spring water supplies from the same aquifer tapped into by a borehole well on the farm. He told the committee that residents were concerned that significant water extraction from the borehole for the tomatoes could affect private supplies.
Mr Walmsley said that detailed testing of the aquifer had not been carried out to assess the extent of water available, and called for the planning committee to consider a condition which would protect the residents’ water supplies.
However, Mr Shanks said that on rainfall figures for the past 40 years there would have been sufficient rainwater to provide for the tomato-growing operation.
“If, over time, there were a need to extract water, I have an extraction licence for farm use of 25m3 per day – that is more than enough needed, even if we had 12 months without any rain,” Mr Shanks said.
He added that he objected to any suggestion that he should have to pay for geological testing of the aquifer, as the testing already carried out had “proved the point”.
Mr Shanks said that 19 full-time equivalent jobs would be created by the scheme.
Planning officer Ian Aikman told the committee that the council’s environmental health officer advised that the rainwater “should be sufficient, but failing that there is sufficient water to be taken from the borehole”.
Councillor Donald Moffat said: “This is a major diversification and a major number of jobs for a rural area. I think this is a first-class proposal.”
Councillor Jim Brown said he thought it would be foolhardy not to take the advice of officers, adding: “I think this is something we should be 100 per cent supporting.”
However, colleagues said they wanted a condition in place which would require further testing, and if that showed there was not enough water available underground, then Mr Shanks would have to install a third rainwater tank or connect to the mains.
No councillor expressed any desire to reject the application, and in the end a motion to approve as recommended, without a requirement for further testing, was passed by five votes to three.