Care Farm obtains building permit despite “hate campaign”

A disabled and disadvantaged care farm on the outskirts of Bristol has been granted a building permit, despite an alleged “hate campaign” against it, writes Amanda Cameron.

Maria Needs, who founded the Empowering Futures charity, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it took the organization five years to find and purchase land for the care farm in Hambrook village.

Their plans to use farmland near Bury Hill to teach children and vulnerable adults agricultural and craft skills were backed by 105 residents and unanimously approved by a planning committee last week.

But Ms Needs later said she felt “shattered” by local opposition to the plans, which she said involved a “hate campaign” waged by a handful of local families.

She was also angry and upset by the imposition of planning terms that she said were too expensive for the charity.

The charity’s plans for a 10m long tunnel and 4m high building at Moorend Farm have faced opposition from 17 residents, the Winterbourne Parish Council and a local councilor, who said at the planning meeting that the development “will damage the local landscape”.

Opponents have raised concerns about the effect of the care farm on the green belt, traffic, people’s enjoyment of the countryside and their views of an ancient hill fort on Bury Hill to the north.

Due to the proximity of the Iron Age Hill Fort, the South Gloucestershire Council has imposed a condition of planning consent requiring the charity to develop, submit and adhere to an ‘program of archaeological investigation and d ‘registration for the site’ approved by the board.

Ms Needs said it would mean paying an archaeologist £ 200-500 a day to oversee construction work and sift the ground while the building’s foundations were laid.

“It’s just impossible,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. ” I’m really angry. They penalize people with disabilities.

Ms Needs said she was unsure how the charity would overcome the planning requirements, but was determined to ensure that the care farm continues at the Hambrook site.

The planning committee heard heartfelt appeals from the charity and others who support its work at its meeting on Thursday, Jan.6.

Lorna Carter-Stevens, of New Beginnings, a community center for adults with learning disabilities, said she was overwhelmed by the “prejudices” towards people with learning disabilities, who are among those who visit. the care farm.

“During the lockdown, many of them suffered greatly from mental health issues and they were isolated for long periods of time,” Ms. Carter-Stevens said. “They need this activity more than ever. We should welcome them with open arms and with love.

Gemma Mugridge of Empowering Futures said some in the community mistakenly thought the care farm was a petting zoo or an urban farm and that it would attract “a lot of people.”

“It’s an absurd idea,” she said.

The care farm offers a tailor-made activity program for small groups of people, by referral and by appointment, she said.

Participants learn social and communication skills, as well as traditional farming and craft techniques, and derive therapeutic benefits from working with animals and nature, she added.

“All we want to do is help those in the local community who need us the most – those who are excluded from other contexts because of their needs and disabilities and give them opportunities that they have never had before, ”Ms. Mugridge said.

Staple Hill Councilor Ian Boulton, who knows Empowering Futures from his work at Page Park, said “any community should feel very lucky to have them in their neighborhood.”

But Winterbourne councilor Trevor Jones told the planning committee: “This development, and others, will damage the local landscape.

“We are concerned about the cumulative damage to both the Hill Fort site as a whole and the rest of the local environment. ”

Ms Mugridge called for the removal of two planning conditions to control planting and protect the tree line that creates a visual barrier between the care farm and the historic hill fort, but a council officer said they were both “standard” and “necessary”.

The charity planted 1,000 saplings on the farm last year and plans to plant 1,000 more this year, the meeting learned.

Historic England has raised concerns about the impact of the care farm on Hill Fort, which is listed as a ‘listed ancient monument’.

But council officials felt the benefits of the proposal outweighed the damage to both the heritage property and the green belt and recommended the request for approval, it was learned at the meeting. .

Councilors approved the recommendation and voted unanimously to support it, calling the care farm “amazing” and “fantastic”.

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