UK: ‘Cucumber capital’ growers selling up as Brexit and energy crisis hits vegetable industry

Huge areas of one of Britain's biggest salad growing hubs will be replaced with housing estates as growers give up in despair and cash in their land.

The Lea Valley, also known as the cucumber capital and Britain's salad bowl, is one of the diamonds of the UK's embattled horticultural sector. The Lea Valley Growers Association (LVGA), seeded through an area running across Greater London, Essex, and Hertfordshire, comprises more than 180 hectares (450 acres) of glasshouses run by 80 growers. The valley should be a jewel in the crown for a country concerned with homegrown industry and food security.

But hit by Brexit, a flawed Home Office plan for workers, and now rising energy prices, more than a third of the growers have applied for planning permission to knock down 60 hectares of greenhouses to replace them with housing estates, warehouses, and small factories. Their applications have been granted.

"Without government assistance for British food producers, the largest hub in the UK's glasshouse sector could face extinction within the next two years," said Lee Stiles, the LVGA secretary, "to be concreted over by houses and industry.

"The association has 80 growers and 450 acres of glasshouses," he said. "Twenty growers have permission for housing, representing 100 acres, and another 10 have permission to develop their 50 acres for light industrial uses."

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