Work begins on £18m fruit packing warehouse near Maidstone
PUBLISHED: 14:52 29 September 2017
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday
Construction work began this week on a new £18m fruit packing warehouse near Maidstone - described as a major vote of confidence in the county’s fruit industry.
Mayor of Maidstone, Malcolm Greer formally got construction under way when he dug the first turf at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, with Jacqui Green, CEO of Berry Gardens, the grower-owned fruit marketing cooperative business, which is based near Tonbridge, also attending.
The development will safeguard 434 existing jobs for Kent and create a further 500 jobs, bosses say.
Located on a 25 acre site at Linton, near the county town, the 13,991 square metre pack house with 12 loading bays is being developed by shipping service, Alan Firmin Ltd, and will include some 4,542 square metres of office space for Berry Gardens.
Cllr 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 Gardens’ chief operating officer, added: “Today marks an exciting development in Berry Gardens’ history.
“The construction of the new pack house 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 650 square metres of solar PV panels and deliver 30 per cent improvements in CO2 emissions over those required by building regulations.