This post was originally published on our sister blog, The Stirrer. While we don’t often cross post between blogs, we feel that there are issues dealt with in this piece that will be of interest to followers of Grassroots Alternatives.

There’s a lot of ‘green’ terminology floating around the promotion of a variety of developments and initiatives. Buzz words and phrases such as ‘sustainable’, ‘carbon neutral’, ‘eco-friendly’ are liberally peppered around the proposals with the aim of creating a kind of feel good glow that will persuade people to lend their support to the projects being promoted. Being the cynical curmudgeons that we’ve occasionally been accused of being, when we see proposals peppered with language like this, our instinct is to take a deeper dive and see if all of the claims stand up to scrutiny. You’ll not be surprised to learn that many do not fully stand up to interrogation. Below are a couple of examples which, despite their many good intentions, fall down in some areas.

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Forest Green Rovers, a football club plying their trade in League One who are currently based at The Lawn in Nailsworth near Stroud, Gloucestershire, want to move to a new stadium. The new stadium will be located by the A419 just by Junction 13 on the M5. Information about the development can be seen here in brief: ECO PARK The new home for FGR and here in considerably more detail on a dedicated website: ECO PARK The new home for FGR.

You will note that the proposed development takes in a lot more than a new stadium. A fair size business park comes as an integral part of the scheme. Presumably this is to help finance the cost of building the new stadium. It is worth taking the time to read through the above links because it’s undeniable that when it comes to energy saving for the stadium and the buildings on the associated business park, the scheme is pretty innovative and ambitious. It should also be noted that with the provision of cycle ways and plans to subsidise match day buses from Nailsworth, Stroud, Stonehouse and Cam & Dursley train stations, FGR are making an effort to try and get people travelling to and from ECO PARK to leave the car at home and use active travel or public transport. The landscaping proposals are also pretty ambitious although cynics will point out that’s a bid to try and compensate for building on Green Belt land!

Were we just talking about a new stadium, there probably wouldn’t be much to criticise as it would be the same number of journeys undertaken by home and away fans, with the only difference being they would be to and from a different location. However, we’re talking about a business park, a hotel and various other buildings as well. While we don’t doubt the sincerity of FGR in wanting to persuade as many visitors to ECO Park as possible to walk, cycle or use public transport, reality suggests that a majority of people will still be getting there and back by car. Despite all of the fine intentions, the development will end up being a traffic generator. At the end of the day, if a new development ends up putting more vehicles on the road network, it’s legitimate to question the ‘green’ credentials that are being claimed for it.

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That’s the first example. Below, we reproduce in full an article that was first posted here on Grassroots Alternatives. The article asks questions regarding the green credentials of allotment developments in the countryside near Bath and Bristol where the majority of plot holders will have to drive to and from them.

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A few thoughts on allotment provision 11.11.22

Roots are a commercial allotment provider. They already operate a site at Tuckers Meadow in the countryside outside of Bath and hope to open up a second site at Abbots Leigh Wood near Bristol. The plots come in a variety of sizes and the rentals vary, depending on what level of service a plot holder wants. Basically, it’s allotment provision for people with busy lives who haven’t got the time to put into a plot that say, an active retired person would have. A gap in the market has been identified and Roots are doing what they can to fill it.

However, there’s always a but… One being that regarding the site Roots want to open up at Abbots Leigh Wood, they’re running into opposition from some of the locals: Allotment plan is ‘blot on the landscape’ says village near Bristol 10.11.22. Some of that opposition may be down to snobbery from some of the very well heeled locals about allotments. In our view, that is most definitely not a legitimate basis for objecting to the proposed allotments! Some of the opposition is down to the number of vehicle movements the site would generate. That is a legitimate cause for concern.

The plots are aimed at time poor but relatively affluent people who are most likely apartment dwellers without access to a garden of their own. Basically, people living closer in to Bristol who would have to drive to get to the plots at Abbots Leigh Woods. It’s pretty much the same scenario at Tuckers Meadow where the vast majority of plot holders have to drive there and back.

We’re pretty sure that the people behind Roots are doing what they do with the best of intentions. However, any claims to be ‘eco friendly’ need to be looked at with a critical eye. As both sites are in locations that can only be accessed by car, the benefits of localised growing need to be offset against the number of extra vehicle movements that would be generated. This is sadly where the Roots model falls down a bit in that ultimately, it’s a traffic generator.

In an ideal world, an apartment/flat dweller shouldn’t have to be jumping into a car and driving a fair few miles just to get to an allotment. Bear in mind that quite a few inner city flat dwellers in both Bristol and Bath don’t drive so wouldn’t be able to access an allotment out in the countryside beyond the city fringes. They rightly would like an allotment they could walk to within fifteen minutes. Local authorities still have a statutory duty to provide allotments if it’s deemed there’s sufficient demand, as explained here: Allotments and the law. However, the caveat is that people may have to wait years before a suitable site can be found.

Walking around the inner part of Bristol and critically looking at the surrounds will show that there’s actually a fair bit of land going to waste that could be cultivated. There are barriers to bringing this land into cultivation ranging from issues with ownership through to a lack of imagination about what could be done with the land that is available. Which is why we’ve always been advocates of guerilla gardening, particularly on the estates: Actually maintaining a community garden:) 27.4.22. We’re also advocates of making use of whatever space is available to apartment/flat dwellers: It can be done:) 21.10.22. Also, the ‘developers’ shoving up the apartment blocks in Bristol need to be pressured into setting aside plots that are available for cultivation instead of the sterile ‘landscaping’ they currently provide around them. That will obviously take a lot of pressure to achieve but, never say never.

What’s needed is a radical rethink about how land in urban areas is used. This needs to happen alongside some deep thinking about where our food comes from. When the dots are joined together, who knows what can be achieved when it comes to making urban land available for cultivation? It’s bound to be better than jumping into a car and driving miles out into the countryside to tend an allotment plot…

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So there we have it, two developments that despite dripping with ‘green’ language, will both end up generating more road journeys. As we discussed at some length in this piece – Set up to fail 24.10.22 – we’re locked into an economic system that assumes near universal car ownership continuing into the future. The planning system servicing that economic system shares that assumption. The stark fact being swept under the carpet is that we live on a planet with finite resources and that some day, fossil fuels will run out. If they’re staking their bets on electric vehicles taking over, then given the massive resources they’ll consume, we’re in trouble. Basically, there’s no future proofing with these assumptions.

At some point, a discussion about how we organise society so we don’t have to make so many long journeys will have to take place. It will undeniably be a painful and difficult one. If we want an outcome of such a discussion that’s fair for all, a revolution taking down and replacing the increasingly bankrupt and rapacious economic system we have to endure will be a necessity. Meanwhile, we reserve the right to question ‘green’ credentials for developments that on examination, are as environmentally friendly as they’re made out to be.