A new major glasshouse is opening today as part of Valley Grown Nurseries 9.7-hectare (24-acre) expansion scheme.
After years of uncertainty surrounding planning permission in the Lea Valley, Essex, NFU president Meurig Raymond will be among VIP guests at the unveiling of the new project, prompting a positive response from British growers.
The new development will be used for growing tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Mr Raymond said currently the UK imports four out of every five tomatoes eaten, showing a fall in self-sufficiency when the public is actively seeking to buy quality British produce.
He said: "There is tremendous scope to grow more salad crops to meet public demand, but modern agriculture and horticulture require investment in modern buildings and modern facilities.
"That’s why this new development is so welcome. I’m delighted that the NFU supported Valley Grown Nurseries through the planning process and I hope we will see more schemes like this in the future."
The development is the largest addition of glasshouses to the Lea Valley since the 1950s. The area itself has about 121 hectares (300 acres) of specialist glasshouses where growers produce 80 million cucumbers, 70 million sweet peppers and other salad crops.
Lee Stiles, NFU Secretary of the Lea Valley Growers Association said: “The Lea Valley had the highest concentration of glasshouses in the world in the 1950s but the growing area has since declined by 80 per cent.
“We have a great opportunity to grow more local food, reduce food imports and create local jobs through glasshouse expansion in the Lea Valley and developments like this will help ensure the area has a viable future.”
NFU member Valley Grown Nurseries obtained planning permission in 2014 to construct the new glasshouse within the Green Belt but the decision was challenged by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. The authority unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.
Jimmy Russo of Valley Grown Nurseries said: "After several years of uncertainty, and huge financial costs, we are delighted that Epping Forest District Council has been fully justified in granting planning permission for this scheme.
“We would also like to thank the NFU and Lea Valley Growers Association for their financial support and dedication during this uncertainty. It’s great news that the challenge has been dismissed and we can now get on with growing fantastic food.”