A LARGE cucumber grower wants permission for four onsite caravans to house agricultural workers.

Since taking over family run Silverdale Nursery in 2014, UK Salads has harvested 12 times more cucumbers at the Nazeing site by tripling the growing area and doubling the height of glasshouses.

With the growing season now extended to 11 months - from late January to November or December - the company claims it needs eight crop workers on hand for the majority of the year.

The relatively low wages of the workers and high price of renting locally has led UK Salads to erect four two-person caravans on site, which it is now requesting planning permission for.

In its application, town planner Stephen Hayhurst wrote: "The ability to attract good quality labour to work on the nursery is crucial to maintaining and enhancing the business’s viability.

"The viability of the nursery would be under threat if insufficient accommodation were available on site in the future."

Mr Hayhurst argued onsite accommodation was the only way to attract and keep hard working cucumber pickers, who have often travelled to the UK from Eastern Europe and have difficulty securing deposits on rented accommodation.

He added: "For the last 50 years the horticultural sector has been dependent on foreign labour and this continues to be the case. Although UK Salads would always be willing to employ

good local British labour, their experience, and that of other Lee Valley growers, is that there is very little interest in this type of work from indigenous locals and when they are

employed they do not stay long, often being unable to cope with the tough working conditions in a hot glasshouse environment."

Once picked, the nursery's cucumbers are transported to Tower Nursery in Roydon where they are aggregated with other UK Salads produce for shipping to Aldi, Booths, Nisa, Spar and Booker.