A plan to create 700 new allotment plots next to Leigh Woods in what would be Bristol’s first commercial allotments have been criticised by local councillors, who say the idea should have to go through the planning process. Bristol Live revealed last week that a new company called Roots were planning to turn a field on the corner of the A369 Portishead road and the entrance to Leigh Woods in Abbots Leigh, near Bristol, into a 20-acre allotments site.
The company – a group of four young environmentally-minded entrepreneurs – have already set up and opened a smaller site on the edge of Bath, which is believed to be the country’s first commercially-run allotments that aren’t set up by a local authority or an allotments community association.
Earlier this year, Bristol Live revealed that, as the site in Bath opened for the first time, Roots had plans to open a site in Bristol, where waiting lists for local authority-run allotment plots can be anything from 18 months to five years or more.
The site in Bristol was unveiled as being a 20-acre field next to Leigh Woods, but the news does not appear to have gone down well with Abbots Leigh Parish Council. Bristol Live understands the parish council has met and written to North Somerset Council, asking it to require Roots to obtain planning permission – something Roots’ founder William Gay said it didn’t think it needed to do.
And Forestry England, which owns the majority of the entrance road into Leigh Woods that would also be the access to the Roots allotment field, has confirmed to Bristol Live that no agreement has been offered to grant access to the field. The field itself is owned by the Wills Family and rented out to a tenant farmer to graze cattle at present.
Simon Talbot-Ponsonby is the chair of Abbots Leigh Parish Council. He told Bristol Live that the first most people knew about the creation of 700 allotment plots on a field in the village was when it was announced by Roots on its website, but they have had a meeting with Roots since then. He said parish councillors in Abbots Leigh are concerned about the idea and believe it would require planning permission, because the allotment plots would require a large car park, and a number of shipping containers and other constructions to service it.
“We believe that there wouldn’t be a great demand for allotments from the immediate neighbourhood, as Abbots Leigh properties are fortunate to generally have fairly large gardens,” he said. “The allotments will therefore be catering for a wider catchment which will inevitably attract a significant amount of traffic. We are told that, at the Bath site which is next to the Park and Ride site, there is parking for around 30 cars. On a like-for-like basis this site would require space for at least 70 cars, although we are concerned that as users will be coming quite some distance to fill the space there could be many more spaces needed,” he said, adding that the area was poorly served by buses.
“The general perception within the village of Abbots Leigh is that the impact of the allotments with all their ancillary buildings will be huge, a site a quarter of the size might be acceptable,” said Cllr Talbot-Ponsonby. “The scale of this proposal would have a dramatic impact on the landscape, which is located in open green belt countryside on a very well used long distance national footpath, The Monarch’s Way. The comment most heard in the village is ‘a blot on the landscape’,” he added.
“The parish council is not against the idea of allotments, but the principal objection is to the scale of this commercial development serving a wide catchment area,” he added.
A spokesperson for Forestry England said: “The majority of the avenue at Leigh Woods is owned freehold by Forestry England. While we have been approached by Roots, no agreement has been offered to grant them access to the proposed allotment site.”
Roots’ co-founder William Gay told Bristol Live the plan for allotments in Abbots Leigh did not require planning permission, and the location was a good one, on a main road in an area that already has a range of uses, from woodland to sports grounds. He said 30 per cent of the allotment pitches, which range from £10 a month to £50 a month, had already been booked up for next spring.
Speaking last week, he said: “It’s a really good site with trees all around it and we’re looking to have 700 plots, which will be manageable. The Bath site has 300 by comparison. At the Abbots Leigh site we’ve already sold 30 per cent of the plots, so we’re hopeful that it will probably be sold out by the time we open it.”