Mayor of Maidstone, Malcolm Greer formally got the project underway when he dug the first turf at a ceremony on Thursday, which was also attended by Jacqui Green, CEO of Berry Gardens.
The development is expected to safeguard over 430 existing jobs for Berry Gardens and create a further 500 jobs for the region. We are developing the 13,991 square metre packhouse, with 12 loading bays, at our 25 acre site at Linton. The project includes 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 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.”
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, plus a further 2.4 hectares of traditional wetland and floodplain grassland. Nearly 500m of new hedgerow will be planted.
The building itself will incorporate 650 square metres of solar PV panels and deliver 30% improvements in CO2 emissions over those required by building regulations.