Both sides dig in over allotments

CONTROVERSIAL plans by a private company to build 700 allotments in Abbots Leigh have been voted down — but could soon be back on the table.

Roots Allotments co-founder Christian Samuel said he was “very disappointed” in the decision by North Somerset Council to reject his organisation’s application for a certificate of lawful development.

Roots argued it should be able to have the certificate — which avoids the need to seek full planning permission — because the site, a field to the east of the A369 opposite the entrance to Clifton College sports ground, was simply changing from one type of agriculture to another.

Councillors unanimously rejected the application over a technicality about the matting used for the planned 80-space car park at the allotment site.

So now Mr Samuel says Roots will reapply for the certificate, this time without the planned car parking. He says 68 per cent of allotment holders have said they will not drive to the site.

Six hundred people have already signed up for allotments at the site, which cost more than council allotments — at £9.99 to £34.99 a month — but include seeds, courses, and access to tools. Mr Samuel said: “We have just got to fight for these 600 people because we feel extremely let down.”

He added that the company had given refunds to anyone who had asked for them.

Mr Samuel said he was very disappointed in North Somerset Council. 

“There’s waiting lists in Bristol that are between 10 and 40 years long depending on how long you are prepared to travel. They totally disregarded all of that and sided with the very wealthy locals,” he said,

The council sent the plans back to Roots when they first came before the planning committee in July to ask for more information about other activities on the site. When the plans came back before the planning committee on August 16, they were voted down. 

Mr Samuel said: “The councillors had clearly made up their minds.”

But planning committee member Stuart McQuillian, the councillor for neighbouring Long Ashton, said: “I have consistently said there is some merit in this application but that a full planning application is required to assess and address issues such as highways safety and ecology. I therefore welcome the unanimous decision by the planning committee today to refuse the request for a certificate of lawful development.”

LLocal councillor Jenna Ho Marris said: ”I’m relieved that this application was refused unanimously by the planning committee. They’ve set an example for other councils to look to.  Of course we support more people growing their own fruit and veg, but like any change of land use it needs to go through proper planning permission.”

Chair of Abbots Leigh Parish Council, Simon Talbot-Ponsonby added: “The residents of Abbots Leigh and Leigh Woods are very relieved at this decision. We hope that Roots will listen to the unanimous view of the planning committee and submit a full planning application rather than trying to get round the  system.”

By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service