We’ve written a number of posts about the controversial proposal by the commercial allotment provider, Roots, to create 700 plots on meadow land at Abbots Leigh to the west of Bristol. Here are these posts:
The saga of the Abbots Leigh allotments continues… 24.4.23
Keep allotments local! 20.4.23
What’s the best location for plots to grow food? 10.3.23
A few thoughts on allotment provision 11.11.22
Below is a statement prepared by those opposing the scheme. It was first published on the Roots Allotments uncovered Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1408604483012967 Given the flak Roots have aimed at local residents and other people in the wider region opposing their scheme, we feel that the least we can do to redress the balance is to publish this statement.
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Abbots Leigh fights to protect meadow against venture-capitalist-backed luxury commercial allotment scheme.
Allota Futureland (trading as Roots) want to convert 25 acres of open Green Belt meadow into commercial allotments with a large car park. This mega-allotment will be 700 plots with parking for 80 cars.
The benefits of allotments for physical and mental health are not disputed, but these must be set against the existing value of green spaces for human wellbeing and for wildlife. The impact of this scheme has not been properly assessed.
This is a huge commercial scheme with fees vastly higher than council allotments. Its out-of-town location means that the majority of clients will drive to the site. Roots are backed by venture capitalists and plan to rapidly roll out this model to many other sites across the UK.
This massive site straddles the Monarch’s Way footpath, hugely popular with walkers, ramblers and runners from the local area including Bristol. Under the proposed scheme, the much-loved footpath would remain accessible, but fenced in.
But the main concern of local residents is that a precious meadow ecosystem, next to Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve and SSSIs, will be lost. The diverse meadow supports many species of bats and birds including endangered greater and lesser horseshoe bats and red-list skylarks, which nest here. Roots have not even carried out a full ecological baseline assessment, over summer months.
We would like to see these meadows protected, to continue to support the rare bats and birds, and managed to maximise biodiversity by wildlife-friendly farming methods and continuing to be cut for hay and grazed by cattle. Turning them into allotments would replace much rarer specialised meadow wildlife with more common garden species.
North Somerset Council advised Roots to submit a full planning application, but Roots have attempted to circumvent this by applying for a Certificate of Lawful Development, arguing that the scheme – despite its commercial nature, large car park and the need for a new entrance onto the grade II listed Coronation Avenue – is simply agricultural use.
Roots are awaiting the outcome of this application – but have attempted to start work already. They have been told to stop by North Somerset Council to stop. Locals are helping to enforce this, preventing access to the site. Forestry England have also told Roots that they cannot use the access on Coronation Avenue.
Local MP Dr Liam Fox strongly believes the scheme should be subject to the full planning process. This would allow proper scrutiny of impact. Residents of Abbots Leigh will continue to fight to protect this precious meadow and its bats, butterflies and skylarks.