Chichester firm to make way for 113 new homes

Bartholomews in Chichester
Bartholomews in Chichester

EXCITING times are ahead for one of the continent’s leading agricultural food companies.

Chichester-based family firm Bartholomews Agrifood has revealed plans this week to move the bulk of its business from its Bognor Road site to just off the Drayton roundabout, along the A259 at Merston.

It wants to build a crop research centre, along with a packhouse and parking at the site.

Its current buildings will all be knocked down – apart from its distinctive head office – to make way for 113 homes.

All of this is subject to planning permission being approved by Chichester District Council.

“This is a family business that’s always looked to move forward and develop,” said company secretary Tim Gleeson.

“The thing we need to look at next is our seed facilities.”

Outline planning permission has already been granted for 51 houses on one section of the Bognor Road site, with an application set to be validated by the council for a further 62 units.

“The great advantage to this site is it’s brownfield development with both a mix of private and social housing,” said Mr Gleeson.

The two separate schemes – a housing development and business relocation – are both linked together to grow the company further.

“The whole idea is that the two run together,” he said. “We release this for much-needed housing in the city but we retain ourselves in the district and keep the jobs here, which is the important thing.”

Their new site, if approved, would be in the district’s horticultural development area with good transport links, he said.

Staff and management are ‘very excited’, according to Mr Gleeson, after the big move got a step closer.

The planning application for the new seed research centre was unveiled this week as it was published on Chichester District Council’s website.

“Due to the commercially-sensitive nature of the proposals, it has not been possible to meet with the nearby residents, local parish council and other interested parties and stakeholders,” said the design and access statement submitted with the application, adding now everything was in the public domain, it would consult with everyone as it wished to be a ‘good neighbour’.

Mr Gleeson spoke of a ‘vision for the future’ from Bartholomews, speaking of the need to increase the yield for companies.

“We want to work with seed breeders to help identify new varieties that will work for local firms to increase yield and increase resistance,” he said, adding developing the new varieties would be ‘good for local agriculture’.

However, while releasing the land for 113 homes and also building a new research centre at Merston are on the cards, he emphasised the Bartholomews offices would remain in their current location.

About 200 people are employed by the firm, with a possibility of expanding this once the new site is up and running.

“Bartholomews during its time in the district has evolved from being a shopkeeper to a business of European if not global significance,” said the company’s application.

“We are well respected for our participation in the market and our multinational business partners are fully committed to supporting us in our business plans.”

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