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Angry villagers have blockaded access to a field that is set to become the home of up to 700 allotments – prompting police to visit the scene.

Locals from Abbots Leigh, immediately on the other side of the Clifton Suspension Bridge from Bristol, are up in arms over plans by a developer to build hundreds of plots, along with an 80-capacity car park, beside Leigh Woods.

Roots Allotments wants to divide up the field and has controversially tried to use a certificate of lawfulness to get the green light for the works instead of planning permission – which would give North Somerset Council less say over the plans.

Workers appeared on the land today accompanied by private security guards to install fences around what could become the site of the community garden – followed by angry residents, who blocked roads to stop them getting in or out.

Police were then sent out after receiving calls regarding people ‘blocking access to private land’, with two cars arriving at the scene to talk to workers and protesters.

Police were called to Leigh Woods at Abbots Leigh, just outside Bristol, after residents turned up to protest what they said were unauthorised works

Workers and security staff from Roots Allotments turned up on site early on Tuesday to put in fencing around a site that could host up to 700 plots

Local residents could be seen remonstrating with security staff as they began putting fencing up at the site of the potential Roots Allotments site

William Gay, co-founder of Roots Allotments, said the fence works were allowed as part of a ‘general permitted development order’ – despite the company having no permission to develop the site on a wider basis.

He told Bristol Live: ‘A new boundary fence is being installed on the land. This is permitted development through part 2, class A of the General Permitted Development Order. No other works are currently planned to take place on this field.’

North Somerset Council said it was aware of the workers on the site – adding that it was sending officers to assess whether the work was lawful.

The authority said: ‘Officers from our planning enforcement team will visit the site to inspect the work and will assess whether a breach of planning control has taken place.’

It’s the latest chapter in a saga has dragged on for the last 18 months after Roots – which already operates in Dudley, Croydon, Bath and Wolverhampton under a subscription model – announced its plans to come to Bristol in April last year.

Roots is a private venture that offers allotments on a subscription model, with prices ranging from £9.99 to £49.99 per month depending on the size of plot. Subscriptions come with access to tools, seeds and extra support.

Last November it announced Abbots Leigh as its preferred site for Bristol – prompting pushback from locals, who said the 700-plot development was too big for the village, which has a population of just 799, according to the 2011 census.

But in April, Roots – whose slogan is ‘good vibes only’ – began working on the site without warning, prompting the first interventions by locals and calls to police.

Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden – a committed environmentalist – even got involved to question Roots’ choice of a ‘biodiversity rich meadow’ for its allotment site.

One day later, the council ordered them to stop working on the site while it considered Roots’ application for the ‘certificate of lawfulness’ – a means of confirming that a plot of land or a building is already designated for a certain use.

Roots sought to get the green light via the certificate as an alternative to planning permission – but it would give the council less say in how the land is used. 

Councillors voted down the application at the end of the summer and told Roots to apply for full planning permission instead so they could consider the impact of the 80-capacity car park on local traffic.

After the bid was refused, Roots wrote in an open letter to the objectors: ‘Congratulations for stopping (for now) 600 people having access to an outdoor space where they could grow their own food, connect with other liked minded (sic) individuals and ultimately improve their mental and physical health.

‘It is with deep dismay that we witness so much fake news and fact spinning about our organisation when there are so many positive ripple effects that can happen when a group of humans get together over the common ground of growing and nature.’

A Land Rover that is said to belong to a local resident is parked in front of an access gate leading onto the field, blocking workers from getting in or out

Staff arrived in vans towing trailers carrying the fences – despite the fact North Somerset Council has not issued a ruling on whether the allotments can go ahead

Roots Allotments’ approach to the project has been challenged by locals and even Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, who questioned its use of ‘biodiversity rich meadows’ for plots

The company has since submitted a certificate of lawfulness application to create the allotments without the car park, for which a decision is due imminently.

But Abbots Leigh Parish Council has objected to the latest bid, writing: ‘The vast majority of the users of the site will be travelling from Bristol and will inevitably be coming by car. 

‘These allotments are not being developed for the benefit of the residents of Abbots Leigh or the immediate local community.’

Residents took to social media to express their anger with the firm for attempting to ‘ride roughshod’ over planning laws.

One wrote: ‘Is this what “good vibes” look like?’  while another said: ‘Why can’t you just abide by the council’s decision and proceed through the proper channels?’  

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesperson told MailOnline with regards to Tuesday’s protest: ‘We have received multiple calls this morning (Tuesday 17 October) relating to a number of people blocking access on private land in Abbots Leigh.

‘Officers attended at approximately 8.35am and no criminal offences were identified. The informant was told this was a civil matter.

‘Words of advice were given to people at the scene before officers resumed patrols shortly before 9am.’

Roots says it is striving to address a nationwide shortage of allotments amid significant demand for plots from would-be gardeners.

A recent study conducted by Greenpeace UK found that almost 175,000 people were on waiting lists for local authority plots.

The group’s Daniela Montalto said: ‘The Government must support councils to act as well as take seriously its own role in creating systemic and lasting change to the food system.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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