Closing the Gap

18th June 2018

Epping Forest MP Dame Eleanor Laing hosted an event at the Houses of Parliament to launch a report by the Lea Valley Food Board and key UK partners.

The report, 'Closing the Gap', looks at the work of the Food Board over the past four years. 

The Lea Valley has long been known as an important area of glasshouse horticulture and is a major UK producer of salad crops. 

Being on the outskirts of London means growers in the Lea Valley face many unique challenges, from the high cost and availability of land for expanding their businesses to enticing and retaining workers who may look to London for other jobs.

The report discusses findings from the Food Board’s working groups and new opportunities that were not foreseen for the industry when the Board was formed. 

For example, Epping Forest District Council and Abbey View Produce are now involved in an Interreg 2 Seas project entitled 'BioBoost', all about enabling the circular economy in the horticultural industry.

Dame Eleanor said: "I was delighted to welcome businesses from the Epping Forest area to the House of Commons for this important event. 

"It is good to see everyone working together to promote the economic development of our area. 

"Epping Forest District Council have been very active and very successful in their excellent work in this respect. On behalf of the local community I would like to thank them all."

The event was attended by some 50 guests with speakers including Dame Eleanor Laing, Food Board chairman councillor Richard Bassett, and two BioBoost project partners - Dr Lydia Smith, of NIAB, and Dr Belinda Clarke, of Agri-Tech East. 

All speakers shared some specialist knowledge, including Dr Smith who gave an overview of the BioBoost project. 

They also highlighted the real opportunities for significant growth in the intensive growing sector if a number of identified barriers could be addressed.

Guests could network and ask questions about the BioBoost project and other topics.

Partners are now looking to come together in a South East Strategic Food Board to take forward the recommendations in the ‘Closing the Gap’ report.

The Lea Valley Food Board was formed in 2013 to look at the challenges and opportunities facing the glasshouse industry in the area.  

The Food Board put together an initial report in 2014 to set up working parties looking at various topics.  

In 2017 the Food Board decided it had gone as far as they could, and would wrap up the group with a final report.  

'Closing the Gap' is this report which follows up all of the working parties, what they achieved, and recommendations going forward for other bodies.  

Dame Eleanor sponsored the report launch at the House of Commons. 
Guests also included Board members, local growers, horticultural colleges, members of SELEP, and others. 

Following on from the report, a recommendation was made to have a larger South East Food Board covering a much wider area and incorporating more organisations to accomplish some of the recommended tasks.

Dame Eleanor Laing MP hosts launch of 'Closing the Gap' report.
Dame Eleanor Laing MP hosts launch of 'Closing the Gap' report.

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