Growers Hub

Council Rejects Allotments On Outskirts of Bristol

Written by
August 18, 2023

Abbots Leigh Objectors,.

The decision by North Somerset Council sets a dangerous precedent for food growing schemes up and down the country. As our once stable nation steps foot into an uncertain future with multiple pressures on our society from health crises, food security, cost of living and access to nutritionally dense, chemical free food.

The world and society has changed massively since allotments were first invented. Classic council allotments have existed in city boundaries and town outskirts, a huge portion of this land has now been sold off to housing developers and there is a lack of cohesion on how the council allotment system is run which impacts the launching speed of new council sites.

It may have been a reality for older generations that walking to their allotment was a possibility. But now and for the younger generations they are restricted to flats without gardens, cities with minimal allotment space and communal parks for their outdoor therapy. One of the only options is to use agricultural green belt for what it has always been intended for, which is agriculture. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an everyday citizen sowing seeds, or a farmer, we can all contribute towards food security by taking up growing no matter how big or small.

Whilst we hold no ambition to take over council run allotments, we see a genuine need for anyone in the agricultural sector to step in to help alleviate the UK’s growing desire to practise horticulture and improve our nation's food sovereignty.

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.

We cannot fathom the callousness of your cheers of success when the council rejected our application and subsequent online comments surrounding establishing a framework for future councils to block food growing operations throughout the UK.

When we import 80% of our food and the climate is changing dramatically, more homegrown solutions should be championed and encouraged, not objected and vilified. The three founders of the business have bared the brunt of negativity, but there is failure to see that this is bigger than just these three people, it is about the 600 members of the local area and countless others nationwide who have signed up to show interest in Roots to go ahead and reap the benefits of having an outdoor space of their own.

Roots members reported a 93% increase in their wellbeing and 70% met someone new. We live in a disconnected and unhappy society. The togetherness born from food growing projects involving those from a diverse range of backgrounds will lead to greater unity across a divided nation.If we cannot agree over whether growing vegetables in an agricultural field requires planning permission? Then how are we as a society meant to overcome the larger ever present pressures of the climate crisis and the negative ripple effect it will have across the globalised connected world and our tiny island that is currently floating, rather fragile.

There needs to be a blended approach to urban/suburban and urban fringe food production where we can envisage places that help humans grow and heal whilst creating a space that benefits the natural world simultaneously.Just a few of the things we want to do at Abbots Leigh:

  • Roots would create a biodiversity net gain of 25% for terrestrial and 100% for linear habitats with our ecologically sensitive management plans.
  • We would be planting over 1,800 meters of native British hedgerow, which once existed through this field
  • Introduce more shrubs and greater diversity of native flora to 20% of the area
  • Establish even more native woodland at the bottom of our site which borders Leigh Woods and create a new pond habitat
  • Maintain a wide width of permanent flora during the growing season around the site to ensure there are substantial nesting opportunities, rather than all the area being cut for hay which is what is currently in place
  • Create bird boxes, bat boxes and wild bee habitats throughout the site

For our members and the wider community:

  • Set up a cycle to grow scheme to offer members 0% on electric bikes
  • Partner with local charities or community groups to make sure we can supply fresh, chemical free surplus produce to those in the local community suffering or struggling to get hold of food due to the cost of living crisis.
  • Work with local primary schools to host lessons on site and make sure children develop a deeper connection with their food and the land
  • Go to local schools if they have a growing space and help re-invigorate so they are in use again and give free access to our members education area
  • Work with charities such as YMCA, St John’s Foundation, Twerton Dementia to ensure they have access to a growing space
  • Offer 25% discount to any service workers, blue sirens, or those on income support
  • With no village shop and the nearest supermarket 2.1 miles away, we offered Abbots Leigh residents 50 free patches to grow their own on. We had no takers cause they’ve ‘all got big gardens’.

Learning how to grow all this food chemical free is a superb way of showing how a system can change on a micro level to spread crucial knowledge that’s been lost due to globalised food chains.

On top of this we are following the no-dig technique by adding organic matter to the soil which helps re-invigorate microbial life and lead over time to 10-15% higher yields. Our soils are a fantastic place to sequester carbon and feed us at the same time!

“The Earth’s soils contain more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in all living plants and animals. Poor soil management degrades this store and releases the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from UK soils contribute to 21% of total UK agricultural emissions. Emissions linked to poor soil management practices more generally (such as from fertilisers) are even higher.” [The Soil Association, 2021]

We will not give up and keep pushing to receive clarity from North Somerset on exactly why they rejected our application.In the meantime we will be looking at appealing the rejection and simultaneously re-submitting a CLD for just the allotments to clarify any potential contention caused by the car park material, despite the Local Planning Authority agreeing that the car park is ancillary and had recommended our application for approval.

1) No digging needed! Your Back Will Thank You

Yes, it’s true. You’ll be picking bountiful harvests without needing to dig, turn or fork the earth! Your back will thank you because digging takes about 2 x times longer than No dig. Beds are made by covering your growing ground in cardboard and placing nutrient rich compost on top - giving you a surface that’s ready to plant straight away!

2) Less weeding 

Weeds get suppressed by the layer of cardboard and compost, they then die off because of no sunlight! If soil stays undisturbed then weeds and their seeds are more likely to stay locked into the ground instead of sprouting when disturbed on a traditionally dug allotment.

3) Feeding the soil creates healthier plants

By building yearly layers of organic matter and not disturbing the soil’s ecosystem, you will increase the amount of good microbial activity. Good microbes help plants access nutrients and water, so the healthier your soil - the healthier your plants! 

4) You’ll do less watering!

No dig beds retain moisture better because you’re introducing organic matter, not taking it away. By keeping the soil’s ecosystem in-tact and encouraging bacteria, fungi and worms to do their thing will create better layers of soil that save water for when your plants need it - instead of bare dug ground that leaks moisture! Water is a precious resource and no dig helps us make the most of every drop!

5) Higher Yields Are Scientifically proven!

No dig has been proven to produce significantly higher yields by Charles Dowding over the last 9 years at his Homeacres Farm. He has been weighing the results of identically planted dug vs no dig beds and over that time the results are 100’s of kg’s greater.

6) Reduce Single-Use Plastic! <3 The Planet!

Every harvest throughout the seasons means you’ll be totally cutting out vast amounts of single use plastic that is used in supermarket produce! The supply chains we rely on use way too much making no dig a great way to start reducing personal consumption of single use plastic.

7) Experience Less pests & diseases

The result of great soil health by the no-dig method helps good bacteria, insects and animals thrive! Using natural methods of pest control we can learn to work with nature instead of against it - a single teaspoon of healthy rich soil can contain up to 1 billion bacteria!.

8) You’ll help fungal networks and they’ll help your plants grow

Fungi are a super important part of running a productive healthy patch. When soil is full of life and undisturbed there will be miles and miles of fungal networks beneath your feet trading nutrients with each other and your plants.

9) Save time and be 40% more productive by no dig!

When you don’t need to spend hours and hours digging, turning and prepping the soil for planting, you’ll be able to spend it doing the fun creative side of gardening - planning, planting, pruning your patch to create your own edible zen garden.

As a bonus you will also feel the mental and physical boost of growing your own

Gardening and feeding yourself with incredibly fresh nutrient dense food has amazing positive side effects for both people and the planet. As time goes by you’ll feel closer and more at one with nature.