£1 million cost of allotments battle
Published on: 30 Jun 2015
THE cost to Bristol taxpayers of a six-week sit-in by protesters at Stapleton allotments is more than £1 million, the city council has revealed.
Protesters occupied the site from January 31 to March 16 in an attempt to stop the proposed Metrobus route.
The group, which called themselves Rising Up, set up camp in trees to protest against a decision to fell them to make way for the bus route.
The bill includes legal costs relating to two High Court orders to evict protesters from the site; a specialist rescue team to bring protesters down safely from trees and other areas of the site including tunnels dug as part of the occupation, plus fencing contractors, security staff and bailiffs.
Following the occupation and resulting clean-up operation, work has started on remodelling the allotments and providing new facilities for allotment holders including new car parking; a new building for the allotment association; new storage facilities; new pathways; new water points and new perimeter fencing around the allotments.
However, repeated attempts to get back on to the land by protesters has meant an ongoing security presence on the site at a continuing cost to taxpayers.
The £200m Metrobus project includes £113m Department for Transport funding plus contributions from North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bristol City councils.
The three rapid transit bus routes in the Metrobus network have received full planning permission following eight years of preparatory work and public consultation.
Mayor George Ferguson said: “I have some real sympathy with the genuine objectors but these costs were largely caused by the involvement of a number of protesters using extreme measures.
“It is most frustrating that this action should have continued at a very real cost to local tax payers despite all that I have done to engage directly and to explain the history and inevitability of the situation as well as the measures I have taken to protect the majority of the land for food growing for all time. The eviction involved over 100 staff, including highly trained and fully accredited operatives and a team of specialists to remove people chained to trees and concrete blocks in the ground, in the safest way possible.
“The Metrobus works at Stapleton have full legal and planning approval and these very significant costs are deeply regrettable. They could so easily have been avoided if protesters had complied with the court ruling or chosen to make their points in a lawful way.”
Cllr Brian Allinson, Chair of the West of England Joint Transport Executive Committee added: “Metrobus will play a significant role in providing greener, more sustainable public transport in the area that will encourage people out of their cars, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
“We are standing fast to this big-picture commitment and working together to make it happen. With attempts to access the land still happening on a regular basis, we need to keep an ongoing security presence on site so we can keep the site safe for benefit of the local community. It also means we can continue works to reconfigure the allotment site and provide improved facilities for allotment holders. Once these works are complete work will start on the new Metrobus junction on the M32.”
Once work on the allotments is complete, construction work for a new bus-only junction will get underway. The link, which is part of the North Fringe/Hengrove Park Metrobus route, is expected to reduce journey times between Hengrove and the University of West of England by 27 minutes, linking people in South Bristol with growing job opportunities in the north of the city.
Some trees will need to be removed for the Metrobus scheme to ensure the new allotments are clear for cultivation and not overshadowed. In contrast over 1,700 trees will be planted by the Metrobus project in the M32 area.
Where your money has gone:
• £100k security prior to eviction
• £70k legal costs including securing two High Court orders
• £150k in planning for the eviction process including risk assessments, resource planning and information gathering
• £50k for fencing and plant contractors
• £650k for security staff, high court enforcement officer, bailiffs and a specialist rescue team