Campaigners say hike in Bristol allotment fees could 'force them off land'

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A campaign has been launched against massive hikes in Bristol allotment fees, which campaigners say could 'force them off land'.

The proposed new charges, which Bristol City Council has put to consultation, sees fees rise by more than 50%.

Plot holders at Bedminster Down, Holly and Sally Wyatt say after seven years of hard work this could "force them off the land".

Holly said: "This rent increase will over double our plot rents combined and I think that's going to mean us looking at which plot we can realistically actually keep."

Sally added: "It makes me feel really sad, it makes me feel angry as well it makes me feel like they don't actually know about this place or care about it."

Holly has launched a petition opposing the plans, which has nearly 2,000 signatures.

New rules would also force allotment holders to remove hedges, fences, most trees, and glass from greenhouses to prevent soil contamination and replace it with twin-walled plastic.

The new policy also introduces a number of additional fees:

  • £15 for a shed, pond, greenhouse or cold frame

  • £25 for keeping chickens, bees and rabbits

  • £32 for a new or replacement key

  • £50 for late payments

Plot holder Tracy Anderson says it should be accessible for all.

"We need this, there are so many diverse people here, there are widowers that come down just because they're lonely, they want to talk to somebody.

"Young families are trying to teach their children this is where food comes from. Not out of a tin when you go to a supermarket, you can actually grow nutritious food here."

Tracy and her husband Paul say the allotment is their sanctuary. "We've really enjoyed coming down here with the silence, the quiet, the birdsong" said Paul.

Tracy said she can get away from life in the city.

"We can sit here sometimes and just look out and see just how beautiful Bristol is, you don't get that where we live. We live on a main road where you've got motorbikes racing up and down the road morning, noon and night."

Lizzie Stephens, the site representative at Bedminster Down Allotments, said owning an plot shouldn't be a luxury.

She said: "It's going to be gardening for the elite I think. It will be such a shame because we need these allotments to be used."

She also runs Bedminster Community Farm, which with the proposed price hikes could be at risk of having to close.

Lizzie said: "We fund this ourselves and we're non for profit, we just want to provide a space and grow food for the community.

"Once people realise it's too expensive to do something like this, they won't bother. They won't bother to visit farms like this, they won't bother to take on an allotment and they certainly won't bother to grow their food."

Bristol City Council, which manages 4,000 plots, with 1,500 more run on its behalf by five allotment associations, says there are now almost 8,000 people on the waiting list.

The authority puts this down to a surge in interest in growing food and says to maintain existing service levels, it needs to increase rents, which were last reviewed in 2018.

Bristol City Council has said proposed changes to allotment fees are subject to a consultation that’s open until 22 January and the proposals are only one part of a wider draft Parks and Greenspaces Strategy.