Anger among allotment holders over nature reserve future

Allotment holders in Thorpe St Andrew

Allotment holders and other local people are unhappy at Thorpe St Andrew Town Council's plans for Churchyard Close. - Credit: Richard Blackburn

Allotment holders fear a town council's plans to create a new open space near their plots could devastate a local nature reserve.

Members of the Hillside Allotment Association are opposing Thorpe St Andrew Town Council's proposals for an open space at the allotments.

Called the Churchyard Close Open Spaces Project, the town council says it will provide better access, re-establish a revamped pond area and see a new wildflower meadow planted.

Thorpe St Andrew Town Council has been asking the public about a new nature reserve at the Hillside Allotments 

Thorpe St Andrew Town Council wants to create a new open space near the allotments. - Credit: Thorpe St Andrew Town Council

There would also be a new security gate with vehicle and pedestrian access, as well as a new vehicle turning circle and disabled car parking.

But members of the allotment association fear it would destroy the existing nature reserve, which can only be visited on an accompanied visit under arrangement with the town council.

They produced an impact assessment report which they sent to the town council.

In that, they said access changes will make it more difficult for disabled people, part of the allotments would be lost and increased public access to the reserve would disturb wildlife such as deer, foxes and bats.

Hillside Allotments in Thorpe St Andrew have been earmarked for a new nature reserve 

Hillside Allotments in Thorpe St Andrew. - Credit: Thorpe St Andrew Town Council

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David Cutting, acting chairman of Hillside Allotment Association, said: "We have a community of over 300 people that value the fact that having an allotment is beneficial to their mental and physical health.

"Indeed many in this community are quite elderly and some are disabled.

"The proposed changes to the disabled parking and turning space would make life at the allotment very challenging
for this part of our community."

Allotment holder Scott Coe said he feared plans for a fence would hinder wildlife foraging for food and the removal of trees would be "devastating" for the bird and insect community.

A spokesman for the town council said: "The town council launched a number of consultations that we had been hoping to do over the past year, but were unable to do so due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We received a number of consultation responses regarding the Churchyard Close project, in addition to the report from some of the Hillside Allotment tenants.

"We responded to this report the same day it was received, thanking them for it."

The spokesman said the consultation had been widely publicised and a meeting with allotment holders held on the site.

He said: "We would say that receiving a 27 page document from the Hillside Allotment Association a week prior to the consultation ending, demonstrates the council has consulted with the allotment holders.

"The committee will take this report, along with all other consultation responses into account, when making a decision."

The town council's planning and environment committee will consider the consultation at a meeting on Monday (August 9) night.

It can then make a recommendation to full council over whether the project should go ahead in its current form, or with changes.