Homes for immigrant farm workers

Local committee in Yarmouth voted for sound-proofing houses 22 January 2009 – A farmer has been granted permission permanently to site mobile homes for overseas workers on his land despite concerns from villagers about noise and anti-social behaviour.

For the past six years Richard Hirst, of Mill Farm, Ormesby, near Yarmouth, has been housing up to 130 staff – students mainly from central and eastern Europe – in temporary cabins taken away at the end of each season, an arrangement that does not require planning permission.

At a meeting of Yarmouth Borough Council’s development control committee on Tuesday, he said the main purpose of the planning application was to improve facilities for the workers who work on a number of local farms for East Coast Growers, a specialist salad growing and packing operation.

Mr Hirst said the students, who work from March to October with peak numbers coming at the end of the season, were essential to the business due to the difficulty of recruiting local people.

And despite 21 letters of objection from villagers he disputed claims of anti-social behaviour describing the students as “mostly far better educated than me and extremely hard working”.

He said last year he was aware of just one incident, in August, when he had had to stop students playing loud music following complaints.

However, North Road neighbour Barry Barrett told the committee he and his wife had to endure as many as 150 youths drinking alcohol outside their home night after night.

He questioned why workers could not be put up in local camp sites, as had previously been the case, and said their presence was “destroying the balance and harmony of the village”.

Watched by the group of villagers who attended the town hall meeting, committee chairman Charles Reynolds said neither he nor Jim Shrimplin, the other local ward councillor, had received any complaints about the students.

He said: “They are polite and a welcome sight to shopkeepers in the village. Mr Hirst wants to provide better facilities for these people and must be applauded. They are much needed because no one locally is prepared to do this work.”

Mick Castle described the opposition as a “storm in a teacup” and said assurances had been given by the applicant about sound-proofing buildings to minimise noise.

The committee voted by 10 votes to one to approve the plan.

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