AN award-winning Cheshire company wants to spice up a global market with plans to expand its saffron-growing business.

The Cheshire Saffron Company has lodged a planning application with Cheshire West and Chester Council for a proposed development off Commonside, Alvanley, which would see the construction of six lodges and an agricultural building for harvesting saffron indoors. The six lodges would also double up as holiday lets at certain times of the year.

Saffron is a spice which originates from a flower commonly known as the saffron crocus. It is most commonly grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India, but the English saffron industry is worth around £5m a year. Run by brothers Peter and Douglas Gould, The Cheshire Saffron Company was set up in 2015, with their product being used as a cooking ingredient, in candles, tea and facial oils.

The saffron is harvested and processed by hand, requiring 200 hand-picked flowers for one gram.

The company said it is currently the biggest producer in the UK but the British weather is hampering its efforts to grow. By having the ability to grow indoors and extend its window of production, the firm said it could look at exporting to the US.

The new proposals would see the process expanded from a current four-weeks-a-year harvest to six months, with the buildings doubling up as holiday lets. During the winter months (October to March) the lodges would be used for indoor saffron farming. During spring and summer, the lodges would be holiday lets.

A design and access statement submitted in support of the plans, said: “The main motivations of this project are to build a bigger business in terms of saffron yields, to increase the growth in sales with business scale-up.

“We sell out of saffron every year at a premium price and cannot fulfil demand. "The variable British weather seriously hampers our ability to consistently increase yields."

The application has been reduced in scope following advice from the council’s planning department, with the number of proposed cabins being reduced from 10 to six, along with one agricultural building. Only three of the lodges would be built initially, with a further three being constructed later if needed. Initial plans for a car park have also been removed.