Brixham farmer's £3m plan to expand business
A TORBAY farmer is ready to roll out a £3million expansion plan following positive meetings with Torbay Council bosses.
Richard Haddock (pictured) has ambitious plans to harvest the rain at his Churston farm buildings and warm it through a hydroponics system to use it to grow fruits and vegetable under polytunnels.
He believes the farming and horticultural investment, which he said could create 150 jobs, will mean his farm can produce everything it needs for its shop and export to businesses in the Bay, the UK and abroad.
His aim is to be more like Riverford which employs 400 people at its site near Dartington.
He said: "I have had meetings with head planning officers, Torbay's mayor and deputy mayor and their attitude is changing. There seemed to be some sort of clash between urban and rural in the past, but when you sit down with them to explain what you want to do they listen and better understand. It's all been very positive."
Mr Haddock said he does not need planning permission to carry out the work, but wanted support for the investment from the authority.
He added: "I don't need planning permission because most of the building and infrastructure are in place, but we do have further expansion plans."
Mr Haddock said his proposed development will create 150 jobs in horticulture, retail and catering.
He added: "I would prefer to make this massive investment here in the Bay, but if Torbay Council is not interested then I will look to have this £3million development in the South Hams or Teignbridge. But I think there has been a massive attitude change recently and they are very much in favour of the idea. Our meetings have been successful."
He said he had been making his land and farm at Churston ready for receiving this final project for the last two years, but has been seriously working on this scheme for the past six months.
He said: "I have been in touch with the local ward councillors, with the deputy mayor, with the Torbay Development Agency. They all seem supportive of the idea.
"I want councillors and residents to know about this plan so there is no confusion. I don't want to build a new road or new houses or a new factory. There are so many scare stories going round in Churston about what we're doing. What we want to do is expand our business, go into partnership with private sector businesses in the Bay and beyond and create new jobs."
At the moment Mr Haddock employs some 60 full-time and part-time staff.
He said although he does not planning permission he needs to prepare a 28-day agricultural notice. If no-one objects to the plans within that time limit then work will begin.
He said: "We have full confidence in what we're doing. We want to turn our pasture land into arable land and grow all the fruits and veg we need so we don't have to import anything, so we cut our food miles and keep it all local as much as possible."
Mr Haddock said that there is nothing stopping his business employing 400 people within 10 years if given support from the local authority.
Deputy mayor Cllr Dave Thomas confirmed he had spoken to Mr Haddock on his project. He said: "I've had several meetings with him. He has great big ideas to expand his business and bring more jobs to the Bay which is exactly what we are about. Our own local plans identifies providing 16,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.
"It is ambitious but we believe it will be possible when the new link road is built."