Feud breaks out over plans to create allotments on outskirts of Bristol

A public meeting was recently held over the project

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A public meeting over a project to create allotments next to Leigh Woods descended into disarray, according to those behind the venture who said they were ‘shouted at for an hour’ by unhappy locals.

Brothers William and Joshua Gay and their friends Ed Morrison and Christian Samuel want to provide allotments and a 80-space car park on a new 12-acre site under a company called Roots Allotments.

The group has already had success creating a smaller allotment site just outside Bath - but with its Leigh Woods project, it faces strong opposition from people in Abbots Leigh, and the prospective Green Party candidate for Pill, Jenna Ho Marris.

Concerns raised include the loss of Green Belt land, the scale of the operation and the size of the car park. Abbots Leigh Parish Council chairman Simon Talbot-Ponsonby also said the plans should be scrutinised in a planning application submitted to North Somerset Council, and not ‘pushed through without consultation’.

In a bid to address some of the concerns, the four entrepeneurs held a public meeting - which they said turned into disarray. Will said: “We tried to engage with the residents at a public meeting, but we felt like we were basically shouted at for an hour. All of them said exactly the same thing – we think this is a great idea, as long as it happens somewhere else. They have created their own perception of the allotments for their own ends, which made it impossible to get through to them.

“However, the reality is that far from threatening greenbelt agricultural land, which is almost a kilometre from the village, we are using it exactly as it was intended – to grow food. It really is that simple. There will be a small space to park up to 80 cars on Grass Grid, which preserves the ground beneath it, allowing grass to continue growing, life to exist below the surface and water to drain freely, and which the entrance road can easily support – it already feeds the Leigh Woods car park which has spaces for more than 70 cars.”

The group is also surprised by opposition from the Green Party. The members claim Ms Ho Marris has produced a flyer which repeats many of the residents’ ‘false claims’ about the site. Will said: “The residents have unfortunately turned their objections into a false narrative about protecting the green belt – even though our allotments do exactly that. But the support they’ve had from the Green Party is head-scratching.

“The current demand for people to grow their own food massively outstrips supply. Our business and the ethos that drives it align perfectly with the Green Party manifesto, which advocates the creation of allotments. So far, we’ve had nothing but support from politicians of all colours – our Bath site was visited and praised by the West of England’s mayor Dan Norris. So the Green Party’s actions against us are inexplicable.”

A quarter of the allotments have already been sold off, according to Roots Allotments team, which said they will be providing ready-made patches at the site to make growing easier. There will be a ‘no dig’ planting principle which will see a cardboard layer covered in compost to suppress weeds.

Ms Ho Marris responded to the group’s statement. She said: “As North Somerset Green Party, Green Party councillors and candidates in North Somerset work hard for their local communities, listening to residents.

Three of the Roots Allotments founders (l to r) Christian Samuel, Ed Morrison and William Gay.Three of the Roots Allotments founders (l to r) Christian Samuel, Ed Morrison and William Gay.
Three of the Roots Allotments founders (l to r) Christian Samuel, Ed Morrison and William Gay.

“Local people are concerned about the scale of this project, lack of local consultation and the fact it has not gone through the usual planning process. As the Green Party we are fully supportive of community food growing initiatives, but this must be balanced with a range of other factors impacting local people and the environment. All proposals for land use must be seen by local people to be fair and transparent and go through the proper planning process.”

Councillor Talbot-Ponsonby also hit back at what the group was saying. He told Bristol World: “We would like them to go for planning permission so we can all inspect the plans in detail, and a decision be made based on that. People are worried that this is being pushed through without consultation and care.” He added: “There is strong feeling against what’s happening, people are outraged.”

It has been reported that Forestry England had not agreed access to the allotment site, but a spokesperson told Bristol World that the entrance proposed off the A369 into Leigh Woods was not owned by the body, but by the Wills Estate. The spokesperson said: “Permission for the access point as proposed is not in our control.”