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Fruit Development Packs Economic Punch for Kent

The start of construction work on a new £18m fruit packing warehouse in Kent has been described as a major vote of confidence in the county’s fruit industry.

Mayor of Maidstone, Cllr Malcolm Greer formally got construction under way when he dug the first turf at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday 28 September, with Jacqui Green, CEO of Berry Gardens also attending.

The development will safeguard 434 existing jobs for Kent and create a further 500 jobs.

Located on a 25 acre site at Linton, near Maidstone, the 13,991m2 pack house with 12 loading bays is being developed by Alan Firmin Ltd for Berry Gardens. The new building will also include 4,542m2 of office space for Berry Gardens, the grower-owned fruit marketing cooperative business, which is based near Tonbridge.

Cllr Malcolm Greer, said: “This is an important investment for Maidstone and sends a positive, confident message about the prospects for the area’s fruit industry. It’s a privilege to get work started.”

Michael Firmin, Managing Director of Alan Firmin, said: “We are delighted to be commencing work on this purpose built, high quality facility. We and Berry Gardens have a long track record of working together, and we are very pleased to be able to assist again with their expansion plans for the future.”

Nick Allen, Berry Garden’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “Today marks an exciting development in Berry Gardens’ history. The construction of the new head office and packing facility will ensure we continue to meet the challenges of our thriving market and create sustainable local employment.”

During the two years it will take to build the pack house, 100 jobs will be directly created with a further 60 jobs indirectly supported through the supply chain.

Recognising the building’s rural location, Alan Firmin has specified that the development will incorporate an 8.9 hectare landscape and ecological enhancement area. Nearly 3.5 hectares of the area will recreate Low Weald wildwood, this is a habitat largely lost from the area, plus a further 2.4 hectares of traditional wetland and floodplain grassland, a rare wildlife habitat in Kent.

Nearly 500m of new hedgerow will be planted as well as new woodland shaws using native species.

The building will incorporate 650m2 of solar PV panels and deliver 30 per cent improvements in CO2 emissions over those required by building regulations.

Alan Firmin Ltd was advised by DHA Planning, Page Surveyors, Corylus Ecology, Lloyd Bore landscape consultants and Rural Partners Ltd.