Public statement: The Metrobus scheme and Feed Bristol

Monday 2nd February 2015

Avon Wildlife Trust runs the wildlife-friendly community food growing hub Feed Bristol on land leased from Bristol City Council, known as Stapleton Smallholdings.

Originally, Feed Bristol was destined for another location, but shifted to Stapleton Smallholdings when that initial site became unavailable at short-notice. The Trust was offered and leased the new land from Bristol City Council (BCC) in 2011, even though we were aware of the risk of a potential Metrobus scheme impacting on the site. That was reflected in the terms under which two areas of the site were leased to the Trust:

  • Three years for the area indicated as affected by the construction and operational phase for the proposed Metrobus.
  • Ten years covering the remaining larger area within which the project's main buildings, infrastructure and majority of activities are located and take place.

Over the past three years, with seed-funding from the Big Lottery's Local Food Grant and BCC, Avon Wildlife Trust has established Feed Bristol as a flagship wildlife-friendly food growing project.

"I don't think any other project I have seen nationally has had such far-reaching impacts..." Joy Carey, national assessor Local Food Programme.

Over 26,000 people have engaged with Feed Bristol so far, including 8,000 disadvantaged people. Over that period, we have enjoyed a positive partnership with BCC, who waived the rent on the land and provided staff input via its Allotments Team.

Notwithstanding that positive partnership, the Trust objected to the Metrobus scheme from the outset setting out our objections in a letter of 11 July 2012 to BCC:

“While Avon Wildlife Trust is in favour of infrastructure that would enable more sustainable modes of transport to be used, we consider that it should not be at the expense of the biodiversity and natural environment or result in reduced opportunities for people to gain health and well-being benefits through contact with nature and the natural world.”

In May 2014, we reiterated our concerns in a detailed objection to the Metrobus planning application. Our concerns were that, as proposed, the Metrobus scheme would:

  • reduce the existing nature conservation value of the site;
  • compromise the benefits Feed Bristol provides to the local and wider community,
  • undermine the economic viability of the project at a crucial period in its development.

Despite that formal objection to the Metrobus scheme, the Trust stated that we would continue to seek to work in partnership with BCC in exploring a sustainable future for Feed Bristol. Prior to and following the granting of planning permission by the Planning Committee, the Trust put forward a comprehensive set of mitigation measures to BCC seeking to minimise the impacts of the Metrobus scheme upon Feed Bristol - including the request that Avon Wildlife Trust's Ecological Consultancy scrutinise and advise on all environmental and wildlife aspects of the scheme as it affects the Feed Bristol site and its surroundings. The Trust is in ongoing positive discussions with BCC re: agreeing and implementing our proposed mitigation measures and securing the project's longer-term sustainability.

Notwithstanding the Big Lottery Fund grant and the working partnership with BCC to date, Feed Bristol would not be the success it is without the enthusiasm and commitment of the 1,000s of local people, volunteers and visiting groups. Feed Bristol has not only made a significant contribution to Bristol’s progressive local food movement but clearly demonstrates nature’s value to society.