Salad farmer promises Ormesby villagers foreign workers will not be noisy

AN Ormesby salad farmer has assured villagers that eastern European students will not hold noisy parties when they come to work in his lettuce fields.

Richard Hirst, owner of Hirst Farms in Ormesby, is facing a growing demand for lettuces and relies on foreign workers to help meet the national appetite.

In 2009 he won permission for 150 students to be housed on his farm, and this week he got the go-ahead to build 12 bedrooms in each of his four grain silos for a further 48 workers.

And councillors who approved plans said residents need not worry about rowdy foreign students taking over villages in the Fleggs.

Barry Cunniffe, councillor for Caister North ward, said: “Lots of villagers objected to the previous application as they thought there would be lots of foreign people walking up and down the road causing mayhem, but that’s not the case.

“They’re all students and nice people. They spend money in the villages, work hard then go back to Russia.”

The busiest time for harvesting lettuce is October and early November and Mr Hirst hopes to use the silo sleeping pods for around 10 weeks at this time.

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“I’m slightly embarrassed we’re back again to increase size, but Norfolk is ideal for late season production and it’s demanding we do more and later in the season,” said Mr Hirst.

“I know there could be a whole debate about eastern European workers, but they’re very happy here.

“I’ve only had one phone call in the last two years about late night music.

“If there’s a problem, people need to tell me and I’ll deal with it.”

Two North Road residents wrote in to object to his plans, voicing fears over 198 noisy students living near to their homes.

And planners also raised worries over the size of a wooden balcony to access the first floor bedrooms in the silos.

But Mr Hirst told Tuesday’s Great Yarmouth Borough Council development control meeting: “We wanted to make sure the scale of the platform was big enough so people can get out in an emergency.

“We want to ensure it’s not used for late night parties.”

There will be two storeys of accommodation in each silo, with brickwork inside the tin shell and access to each upper storey from timber balconies.

Workers already enjoy purpose built kitchen, shower and dining facilities and a recreation area including a pool table and a television.

And they will be ferried from their sleeping quarters to farms around the Fleggs by minibus.

Trevor Wainwright, councillor for Magdalen ward, said: “I think Mr Hirst should be applauded.

“It will create 48 new jobs and we should approve it.”

Plans were unanimously approved at the town hall meeting.

And while Mr Hirst had only requested permission for accommodation to be used for around 10 weeks each year, councillors indicated they were happy for it to be occupied throughout the year.

Mill Farm is an established farmstead with a large hay and machinery store, a large open courtyard, converted former barn and a number of portable buildings.