Controversial plans by a private company to build 700 allotments in a Somerset village near Bristol 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 their application for a certificate of lawful development.
Roots argued they should be able to get the certificate — which avoids the need to seek full planning permission — because the land for the allotments on the edge of Abbots Leigh was simply changing from one type of agriculture to another.
600 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: “I’m just very disappointed in North Somerset Council. They have waiting lists that are ten years long in North Somerset. 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.”
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 rejected over a technicality about the matting used for the planned 80-space car park at the allotment site.
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.”
Local 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 planning system.”
But Mr Samuel said that Roots would apply again for a certificate of lawful development, this time without the planned car parking, as soon as this week.
He added that 68% of the people who had signed up for plots were not planning to drive to the site.
He added: “Hopefully we can have people going onto the site early October”
LDRS, John Wimperis