A TOURIST destination where youngsters can learn about farming and how crops are developed from ‘field to fork’ could soon open near Knutsford.
David Fryer hopes to create the first ‘carbon negative’ attraction in the north west and 26 jobs with his plans for a food and farming centre in Mag Lane, High Legh.
The scheme involves creating a biodome to grow fruit and veg such as tomatoes, peppers, bananas and oranges and animal shelters for chickens, pigs, goats and sheep.
If the plans are successful, David says the site will absorb more carbon than is produced.
This will be achieved with green energy resources such as solar and wood chip power, water recycling, energy saving designs and carbon sapping plants that we will grow.
The idea is that schools and families can visit to learn about agriculture.
David, 33, said: “After a tour, families and educational groups will have gained knowledge in a fun practical way, such as taking part in team games to water or harvest the crops.
“Kids can get their hands dirty and use tools.
“In the bio-dome we will grow tropical plants, and out in the fields we will grow lots of vegetables and oilseeds that children will turn into oil.
“We have already briefed more than 10 schools and colleges, and they all want to visit.”
David’s plans are set to go before Cheshire East Council’s planning committee in March, and have already impressed the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Defra has pledged a grant of £180,000 if the scheme is approved.
David, who has worked in the farming community for 20 years, bought the 2.6 hectare green belt site, which was once owned by Lord Egerton, in 2011.
He previously submitted plans for a ‘pizza farm’ – where all the ingredients for a pizza would have been grown from scratch – but told the Guardian he wanted to broaden the experience.
David added: “It was a very popular idea, but as I went through the planning process I realised I wanted to make something better for the rural economy so I withdrew the application.
“We have also found that three cottages used to be on the site, and originally they grew vegetables in the fields here.”
A CHESHIRE East Council boss is among those who have lodged their support for High Legh’s food and farming centre.
Richard Milkins, visitor economy development manager, said David Fryer’s plans could help boost tourism in the borough.
He said: “A key priority set out within the Cheshire East Council visitor economy strategy is to encourage investment in quality tourism to the benefit of jobs and economic growth.
“The farming and food centre would potentially add value to the tourist attractions of Cheshire.”
Peter Rosenfeld, managing director of BusyBus, said: “The location of this centre is perfect to capture the imagination of both residents and visitors to the north west.
“I own and operate a sightseeing tour company and we are forever on the lookout for attractions like these.”
But Marion Burke, of Swineyard Lane, High Legh, said: “It is a major commercial development in what is a rural environment.
“The A50 is always busy, and vehicles may find access to and from the proposed venture difficult.
“Mag Lane is narrow and in some parts not wide enough for two cars to pass, making it unsuitable for any increased volume of traffic.”
David said: “I understand people will have concerns about any change but the entrance will be very close to the A50.
“We have liaised with the highways officer. He said we would have to agree to paying for some road improvements. We will pay for this so it is better for everyone.”