Combe Down Allotments at risk

Landowner has given notice to terminate the lease renewal on historic village allotments after 130 years.

Combe Allotments
credit:Combe Allotments

The Combe Down Allotments site is privately owned and leased to Banes Council in Bath. Founded in 1894 for the use by quarry workers to grow food for their families and to provide them with a worthwhile activity on Sundays. To date, the allotment site remains undesignated and unprotected as a Local Green Space under the current Local Plan.

The current lease is due to expire in April 2024 and the landowner has informed Banes Council of his intention to end the lease in 2025. As yet no specific date has been declared.

The site, along with the adjacent quarry and the Monkton School playing fields is owned by a distant relative of the original landowner, who is reportedly not a resident of Bath. The site was originally procured by the Monkton Combe Parish Council to serve the workers in the Bath stone mines but, following city boundary changes in 1967, became the responsibility of Bath City Council. The Council has held rolling leases since that time. The site has 64 plots, with reportedly potential for 22 more and a waiting list of 44 people.

The Bath & North East Somerset Allotments Association have urged the landowner to reconsider his decision and to renew the council’s lease of the site for long term allotment use. “Should the landowner decline to renew the lease, we urge the Council to use all its powers and available resources to secure the long term future of the site for allotments managed by the Council or a community group”, writes the association.

Demand for allotments has surged in the wake of the pandemic with a growing need for more green space for recreation, health and to grow food. Greenpeace released data stating that waiting lists for allotments has doubled in the last decade. The data showed that there are at least 174,183 applications sitting on local authority allotment waiting lists across Great Britain, with England figures almost double since 2011. Waiting times average at 3 years, with the longest average waiting time 15 years.

Allotments have a significant role to play in improving people’s mental health and wellbeing by creating a sense of purpose and increasing opportunities to connect with others as well as spend time in nature.

A petition has been set up to save Combe Down Allotments, which will close on the 22nd January for submission to the landowner and Banes Council.